What will be the future for Space Exploration?


After researching over 200 space exploration missions from Project Mercury to the current Space Shuttle discovery missions I still cannot see clearly the way forward after Space Shuttle ceases this year. It has been an absolute thrill to trace step by step the human fascination with the progressive and aggressive determination to keep this habit going! 

Atlantis first launched 25 years ago in 1985 by NASA was scheduled for its final launch on April 21st 2010 .This launch was one of only three remaining missions left in NASA’s Shuttle program. No further programs after Shuttle are expected until 2014, and even this date is doubtful. With a World in freeful  financial meltdown recession, it is not unsurprisingly crystal clear whether it will be ‘New Frontiers ‘ or ‘Final Frontiers’. One thing seems certain though ! whatever it is , it will have to have massive justification for such a pheunomenal budget.

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There has  in my opinion to be a clearly defined purpose with everything NASA has put forward to justify the common interest we have with space exploration, if it does not enhance and advance innovative knowledge then I guess we would have questioned it decades ago. Instead for those who have embraced this great adventure we have in a way become part of its long process.It was Neil Armstrong who said “ Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.”and: “Science has not yet mastered prophecy. We predict too much for the next year and yet far too little for the next 10.”

With every beginning there has to first be a believable vision: For the Russian Cosmonaut program its mission was to succeed at any cost to be the first Nation to place a man in space. When Yuri Gagarin was chosen, he chose to believe it would happen, the possibilities of failure no doubt was not an option for him. Unique bravado was required for any man to suit up, strap himself in, and fly solo on a Vostok rocket that had already seen tragedy in testing.

Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin born march 9  1934 – 27 March 1968) became a hero of the Soviet Union as on 12 April 1961, he became the first human to fly outside the higher heavens of planet Earths’ atmosphere, and the first to orbit the Earth. Just over 8 years later the world is spellbound with the first Lunar landing, so much so NASA returned there 5 more times. Space shuttle during that time was already being conceived in the big womb of Americas vast space technology industry. They knew then the only way forward, with the least expense was to design a re-usable space craft, tough enough to go up again months later. Cleverly this idea would embrace other Nations as well as unite joint missions with Russia, China , Canada, the UK and others.

So far we have seen since 1981 three decades of perpetual astronaut travel the introduction of mission specialists who have performed hundreds of experiments for many different countries. Yes perhaps even Kennedy would not have believed that? So what now? Will another Nation return to the Moon, and if so for what purpose ? Will space stations be developed further, and increased outside of ISS (Internation Space Station)?  Do we really believe strongly that commercial space travel will be affordable beyond the super rich with pilots such as Brian Binnie (Space Ship 1) leading the way. Believe you me I love the whole Space Exploration mandate, but have to admit that at the moment I am really not sure I would trust anyone other than a bone fide Nasa trained Astronaut to ‘Fly me around the Moon and back’. Who for example is going to give this the green light, whose decision will it be to take that risk, imagine all the health and safety issues (I can see that being a 10,000 page document just for starters! )

I really do not believe it is just me being cynical because in stark relaity space exploration is more than just a swift couple of Orbits around old faithful planet Earth, this is serious stuff, and we must always remember that. Nasa administrator Michael Griffin has said previously “I’m concerned about our ability to bring these new capabilities online by 2014. “If we do not quickly come to grips with this issue, we may have a prolonged gap between the end of the shuttle programme and the beginning of operational capability in our new systems, like that which occurred between 1975 and 1981, when we transitioned from Apollo to space shuttle.” He rightly also pointed out at the time that the gap led to the loss of engineering know-how within NASA.

So whats on the agenda ?

To  complete the International Space Station (ISS) by 2010 was a goal for the Bush government. Although its primary role is for research, we know that the ISS can also serve as intermediary between here and the moon. This was the Space Shuttle’s main purpose to help finish the assembly of the international Space Station. Shuttle’s retirement would see a new spacecraft  developed that has to be capable of ferrying passengers and cargo to the ISS, and beyond our orbit to other worlds. A huge goal eh, sounds like competing with Captain James T Kirks job (though at least he had the Starship Enterprise and the equipment to achieve that).

This new proposed spacecraft will possibly be named: Crew Exploration Vehicle, with the project name’ Project Constellation’ Reaearching this we know that to date, every space vehicle placed into orbit has been propelled solely by rocket engines with both rocket and air breathing propulsion systems producing thrust by combusting various fuels with an oxidizer. Technology boffins tell us that an air-breathing engine will not function out in space, but it can get a vehicle into space while realizing significant reductions in take-off weight. This means that the current vision for the next SLV is to have multiple stages, one of which would incorporate an air breathing propulsion system that would operate before the vehicle leaves the Earth’s atmosphere.  We know that  all, the solid rocket boosters of the Space Shuttle separate while still in the atmosphere, which simply tells us that the whole first stage of the Shuttle could be replaced by an air-breathing engine. Brian Binnie and his record breaking Spaceship One operates just like this whilst riding piggyback on ‘The White Knight’ which is two J85GE-5s) powered aircraft right up until it reaches an altitude of 50,000 feet. What happens next is the spacecraft separates from its carrier and the rocket-powered stage of the ascent begins to the amazing achievement of outer space.

2014 is only 4 years away, and between now and then any sustainable project will have to go at some pace before regular space travel begins again,  for NASA anyway!  One must also not discount entirely other countries who see space exploration as their goal, China is looking at the Moon, it has already had Chinese Astronauts working on various Shuttle missions, and has the funds to pursue very seriously missions to more deeper space. Whatever happens we can expect a very international competitive spirit, of which working together can only ensure that quality , safety and genius remains, as it did on those early Mercury days…. Gary Royston Cole (16th May 2010)

 If all else fails its Buzz Lightyear to the rescue!, “To infinity and beyond”

Posted on May 15th, 2010. 2 Comments »





Project mercury propels forward the serious mission for regular and effcient space flights that would have manned crew leading space travel that would ultimately land a man on the moon. Mercury should be hailed as a heroic period in space history where men put their lives into the hands of a vast technical crew made up from the best in the world. It states simply that through diligence , percerverence and an element of bravado goals can be achieved. The years 1959-1963 would shape the future of manned space flight.

We shall see that these historical flights enthralled the world that this was not just a dream  but a reality that was happening in their lifetime. The early sixties hailed great change for the Americans, a new enthusiastic President with Kennedy at the helm predicting a man on the moon by the end of the decade, the Russian space program had begun wth success with Satellites and Yuri Gagarin being propelled into the heavans via a Vostok rocket. Yes! this really was the decade of politicians sanctioning huge amounts of monies to a project that was truly untested, training highly rated pilots to become skilled Astronauts to a level never achieved before, and competing against Russia. But was this an arrogant space race at no cost? No, I do not think so! This was America pushing forward technology, getting a Nation enthused, after dark times with Korea, and later Vietnam. This was America displaying its power to the world through a decade of programs that would push forward the advancement of technology we take for granted today. They used to their advantage chosen Astronauts known as the ‘Mercury Seven’ in a massive publicity campaign that would warm the hearts of most Americans, whilst captivating the imaginations of people around the globe.

Without Mercury, without dedicated scientists and ground crew, without highly skilled Astronauts, without taxpayers money for this project there would never have been a Lunar Landing in 1969 !

Early Flight Tests

There were many test flights to test  the Mercury project before it was manned, these were:

Little Joe 1  Big Joe 1  Little Joe 6  Little Joe 1A  Little Joe 2  Little Joe 1B  Beach Abort   Mercury-Atlas 1 Little Joe 5 Mercury-Redstone 1  Mercury-Redstone 1A  Mercury-Redstone 2   Mercury-Atlas 2  Little Joe 5A   Mercury-BD Mercury-Atlas 3   Little Joe 5B   Mercury-Atlas 4 Mercury-Scout 1   Mercury-Atlas 5 ..

A sample from these flights are given below 

Mission: Little Joe 1
Vehicle: Little Joe (1)
Crew: Unmanned
Dates: September 15th 1959

Mission Purpose:
This was the Max Q abort and escape test. Flight was to determine how well the escape rocket would function under the most severe dynamic loading conditions anticipated during a Mercury-Atlas launching. 
Distance: .5 statute miles
There was an evacuation of the area 35 minutes before, then the  batteries for the programmer and destruct system in the test booster were being charged. However , half an hour before launchtime, an unexpected explosive flash occured. Afterwards it was evident that only the capsule-and-tower combination had been launched, on a trajectory similar to an off-the-pad abort. Near apogee, at about 2000 ft, the clamping ring that held tower to capsule released and the little pyro-rocket for jettisoning the tower fired. The accident report for LJ-1, issued September 18, 1959, blamed the premature firing on the Grand Central escape rocket on an electrical leak, or what missile engineers call transients or ghost voltages in a relay circuit. The fault was found in a coil designed to protect biological specimens from too rapid an abort.


Launch Pad: LC-14 Vehicle: Atlas (1) Crew: Unmanned

 Dates: July 29th 1960

Payload: Spacecraft number 4, Launch Vehicle 50-D

Mission Purpose:  To qualify spacecraft and Atlas combination including specfic tests which were:
Recover the capsule , determine the structral integrity of the Mercury capsule structure and afterbody shingles under the maximum heating conditions which could be encountered from an orbital launch . Also check the Mercury capsule afterbody heading rates for the all important re-entry. The flight dynamics of re-entry were tested as well as checks on the capsule recovery involving personnel. The flight was categorised as a failure, however safety, technology and methods were being developed on each mission.
Altitude: 8.1 statute miles
Orbits: 0


Mission: Mercury-Atlas 5
Launch Pad: LC-14
Vehicle: Atlas (5)
Crew: Enos the chimp

Payload: Spacecraft number 9, Launch Vehicle number 93-D

Mission Purpose: Primate test of Environmental Control System in Orbit. They had an on board visitor during the flight who was a chimpanzee called Enoz.He held up well to cabin pressure and flight time of nearly 90 minutes.

Altitude: 147.4 apogee by 99.5 perigee statute miles
Orbits: 2
Period: 88 minutes, 26 seconds
Duration: 0 Days, 3 hours, 20 minutes, 59 seconds
Distance: 50,892 statute miles




Dates: 5th May 1961
Crew: Alan B. Shepard Jnr

Miles Travelled: 116.5

Orbits: Nil

Duration: 15 minutes 28 seconds.

Mission Purpose: Carrying the first American into space (Alan Shepherd) and a payload of the launch Vehicle MR7
The main scientific objective of project Mercury was to determine man’s capabilities in a space environment and in those environments to which he will be subject upon going into and returning from space. A  very full mission which  had its objectives including : The development of an automatic escape system, vehicle control during insertion, behavior of space systems, evaluation of pilots capabilities in space, in flight monitoring, retrofire and reentry maneuvers and landing and recovery. Above all though it had to prove man’s capabilities in a space environment and in those environments to which he will be subject upon going into and returning from space. The mission ironed out a few problems with maneuverbility, capsule and landing whilst catapulting Alan Shepherd into World-Wide stardom. Later he would walk on the Moon as part of Apollo 14.

(For Alan Shepherds Profile see Apollo 14 autograph colection)



Dates: July 21st 1961

Crew: Virgil I. Grissom

Miles Travelled: 302 miles

Duration: 15 minutes 37 seconds

Orbits: Nil

Mission Objective:
After  earlier delays the mighty Mercury-Redstone 4 was the fourth mission in the Mercury-Redstone series of flight tests and the second U.S. manned suborbital spaceflight. The main objective was to corroborate the man-in-space concept. The main configuration differences between the MR-3 spacecraft was that it contained a  large viewing window and an explosively actuated side hatch.
The large viewing window was actually a result of a change requested by Mercury astronauts. By doing this it was obvious that this would allow the astronauts to have a greater viewing area than the original side port windows. The field of view was 30 degrees in the horizontal plane and 33 degrees in the vertical. The explosively actuated side hatch was used for the first time on the MR-4 flight.  

Gus Grissom lay in the spacecraft 3 hours and 22 minutes prior to after extensive tests for weather conditions, launch procedures up to 21 days were spent at the launch pad itself. Everything had to be correct in order for the pad procedures to initiate the power to ignite such a vast sized rocket, any error could potentially be fatal, so delays were for safety and checks. During the boosted phase of flight, the flight-path angle was controlled by the launch-vehicle control system. Launch-vehicle cutoff occurred at T+2 minutes 23 seconds, at which time the escape tower was released by firing the escape and tower jettison rockets, an incredible picture of sheer power and thrust giving you the impression that ir would seem impossible to launch such a Rocket. In flight the periscope was extended; the automatic stabilization and control system provided 5 seconds of rate damping, followed by spacecraft turnaround. It then oriented the spacecraft to orbit attitude of -34 degrees.There was a Retro sequence was initiated by timer at T+4 minutes 46 seconds, which was 30 seconds prior to the spacecraft reaching its apogee. Gus Grissom took control of the spacecraft attitude at T+3 minutes 5 seconds and controlled the spacecraft by the manual proportional control system to T+5 minutes 43 seconds. He initiated firing of the retrorockets at T+5 minutes 10 seconds. From T+5 minutes 43 seconds, he controlled the spacecraft by the manual rate command system through reentry. The retrorocket package was jettisoned at T+6 minutes 7 seconds. The drogue parachute was deployed at T+9 minutes 41 seconds, and main parachute, at T+10 minutes 14 seconds.Although the flight was successful the spacecraft was lost during the post landing recovery period as a result of premature actuation of the explosively actuated side egress hatch. The capsule actually sank in 15,000 feet of water in the Atlantic ocean shortly after splashdown. The astronaut egressed from the spacecraft immediately after hatch actuation and was retrieved after being in the water for about 3 to 4 minutes. Mercury missions were making ground and now regularly Astronauts were being tested for future Lunar missions, Grissom would have been one of them.

(For Gus Grissoms biography see Astronaut Autograph collection)



Dates: February 20th 1962

Crew: John H Glenn

Miles Travelled: 75,679

Orbits: 3

Duration:  4 hours 55 mins and 23 seconds

Mission Purpose: Simply to place a man into Earth orbit and  observe his reactions to the space environment and safely return him to Earth to a point where he could be readily found. During this  Mercury flight it was planned during the first orbit was to maintain optimum spacecraft attitude for radar tracking and communication checks.  After failed pre test checks  this flight launched off with John Glenn in the capsule having a total weightless time of 4 hours 48 minutes.
During the flight only two major problems were encountered: (1) a yaw attitude control jet apparently clogged at the end of the first orbit, forcing the astronaut to abandon the automatic control system for the manual-electrical fly-by-wire system; and (2) a faulty switch in the heat shield circuit indicated that the clamp holding the shield had been prematurely released
Nevertheless the mission was successful and John Glenn was the first man to orbit the earth, and complete a total of 3 orbits.
(for John Glenns biography see Astronaut autograph collection )



Dates: May 24th 1962

Crew: Scott M Carpenter

Miles Travelled: 99.9

Duration: 4 hours 56 minutes asnd 5 seconds

 Orbits: 3

Mission Purpose : To Corroborate man in orbit after an exceptionally good launch. During this mission the Spacecraft overshot intended target area by 250 nautical miles and  Carpenter reported a severe list angle on the order of 60 degrees from vertical and post flight photographs of the spacecraft taken after egress indicated approximately a 45 degree list angle, plus on return considerable amount of sea water was found in the spacecraft which was believed to have entered through the small pressure bulkhead when Carpenter passed through the recovery compartment into the life raft. However the main highlights showed total weightless time of nearly 4 hours and 40 minutes.The craft performed well and all main objectives were achieved.Equipment included for the flight provided valuable scientific information; notably that regarding liquid behavior in a weightless state. An experiment  also  was carried out to provide atmospheric drag and color visibility data in space through deployment of an inflatable sphere was partially successful. What this flight did achieve was to demonstrate  evidence for progressing into missions of extended durations which would have to be achieved in later Gemini and Apollo missions. 
(for Scott Carpenters biography see Astronaut Autograph section)



Dates: October 3rd 1962

Crew: Walter M Schirra

Miles Travelled: 143,983

Duration: 9 hours 13 minutes and 11 seconds


Mission Purpose: To achieve a Manned mission in orbit for 9 hours. Astronaut Wally Schirra made six orbits of the Earth in the Sigma 7  spacecraft on October 3 1962, in an almost completely successful nine-hour flight focused primarily on technical evaluation rather than on scientific experimentation. This was to be was the longes American orbital flight yet achieved, but was still well behind the several-day record set by the Soviet Vostok 3 earlier in the year, and helped confirm the Mercury spacecraft’s long-duration capabilities in preparation for the one-day Mercury Atlas 9 mission which fwas planned for launch in 1963, and to be the last of the Mercury missions.

The mission finally launched on the morning of October 3, having been delayed two weeks due to problems with the Atlas. There were no significant technical problems during the flight and the spacecraft’s control systems were thoroughly checked out, and it was left to orbit in both automated and entirely passive flight modes for prolonged periods whilst the pilot monitored it and carried out some minor scientific experiments. After six successful orbits, the capsule landed in the Pacific Ocean where Astronaut Wally Schirra was picked and reported an overall successful mission which would lead confidently on to the final mission of Mercury



Dates: May 15th 1963

Crew:Gordon Cooper Jnr Miles Travelled: 546,167Duration: 1 day 10 hours 19 minutes and 49 seconds.Mission Purpose: To complete a minimum manned 1 day mission in orbit.Faith 7 the last Mercury project mission rocket was launched from Launch Complex and is described as follows: 14. At T+ 60-seconds, the Atlas started its pitch program. Shortly afterward, MA-9 passed through Max-Q. At T+ 2-minutes and 14-seconds Cooper felt BECO (Booster Engine Cutoff) and staging. The two Atlas booster engines had been left behind. The Launch Escape Tower was then jettisoned. At T+ 3-minutes the cabin pressure sealed at 5.5 psi (38 kPa). Cooper reported, “Faith 7 is all go.”At about T+ 5-minutes was SECO (Sustainer Engine Cutoff) and Faith 7 entered orbit at 17,547 mile/h (7,844 m/s). After the spacecraft separated and turned around to orbit attitude, Cooper watched his Atlas booster lag behind and tumble for about eight minutes. Over Zanzibar on the first orbit, he learned that the orbital parameters were good enough for at least 20 orbits. As the spacecraft passed over Guaymas, Mexico still on the first orbit, capsule communicator Gus Grissom told Cooper the ground computers said he was “go for seven orbits”.At the start of the third orbit, Cooper checked his list of 11 experiments that were on his schedule. His first task was to eject a six-inch (152 mm) diameter sphere, equipped with xenon strobe lights from the nose of the spacecraft. This experiment was designed to test his ability to spot and track a flashing beacon in orbit. At T+ 3-hours 25-minutes, Cooper flipped the switch and heard and felt the beacon detach from the spacecraft. He tried to see the flashing light in the approaching dusk and on the nightside pass, but failed to do so. On the fourth orbit, he did spot the beacon and saw it pulsing. Cooper reported to Scott Carpenter on Kauai, Hawaii, “I was with the little rascal all night.” He also spotted the beacon on his fifth and sixth orbits.Also on the sixth orbit, at about T+ 9-hours, Cooper set up cameras, adjusted the spacecraft attitude and set switches to deploy a tethered balloon from the nose of the spacecraft. It was a 30-inch (762 mm) PET film balloon painted fluorescent orange, inflated with nitrogen and attached to a 100 feet (30 m) nylon line from the antenna canister. A strain gauge in the antenna canister would measure differences in atmospheric drag between the 100 miles (160 km) perigee and the 160 miles (260 km) apogee. Cooper tried several times to eject the balloon, but it failed to eject.Cooper passed Schirra’s orbital record on the seventh orbit while he was engaged in radiation experiments. After T+ 10-hours, the Zanzibar tracking station informed Cooper the flight was a go for 17 orbits. Cooper was orbiting the earth every 88-minutes 45-seconds at an inclination of 32.55 degrees to the equator.His scheduled rest period was during orbits 9 through 13. He had a dinner of powdered roast beef mush and some water, took pictures of Asia and reported the spacecraft condition. Cooper was not sleepy and during orbit 9 took some of the best photos made during his flight. He took pictures of the Tibetan highlands and of the Himalayas.

Controversy arose during the flight when Cooper reported that he could see roads, rivers, small villages, and even individual houses if the lighting and background conditions were right. This was later confirmed by the two-man Gemini crews that later flew (of which Cooper was included). Cooper slept intermittently the next six hours, during orbits 10 through 13. He woke from time to time and took more pictures, taped status reports and kept adjusting his spacesuit temperature control which kept getting too hot or too cold.

On his fourteenth orbit, Cooper took an assessment of the spacecraft condition. The oxygen supply was sufficient. The peroxide fuel for attitude control was 69 percent in the automatic tank and 95 percent in the manual one. On the fifteenth orbit, he spent most of the time calibrating equipment and synchronizing clocks. When he entered night on the sixteenth orbit, Cooper pitched the spacecraft to slowly follow the plane of the ecliptic. Through the spacecraft window he viewed the zodiacal light and night airglow layer. He took pictures of these two “dim light” phenomena from Zanzibar, across the Earth’s nightside, to Canton Island. The pictures were later found to have been overexposed, but they still contained valuable data.

At the start of the 17th orbit while crossing Cape Canaveral, Florida, Cooper broadcast slow scan black and white television pictures to the ground. The picture showed a ghostly image of the astronaut. In the murky picture, a helmet and hoses could be seen, it was the first time an American astronaut had sent back television images from space.

On the 17th and 18th orbits, he took infrared weather photos and moonset Earth-limb pictures. He also resumed Geiger counter measurements of radiation. He sang during orbits 18 and 19, and marveled at the greenery of Earth. It was nearing T+ 30-hours since liftoff.

On the nineteenth orbit, the first sign of trouble appeared when the spacecraft 0.05 g (0.5 m/s²) light came on. However, this turned out to be a faulty indicator, and the spacecraft was not reentering. On the 20th orbit, Cooper lost all attitude readings. The 21st orbit saw a short-circuit occur in the bus bar serving the 250 volt main inverter. This left the automatic stabilization and control system without electric power.

On the 21st orbit, John Glenn onboard the Coastal Sentry Quebec near Kyūshū, Japan, helped Cooper prepare a revised checklist for retrofire. Due to the system malfunctions, many of the steps would have to be done manually. Only Hawaii and Zanzibar were in radio range on this last orbit, but communications were good. Cooper noted that the carbon dioxide level was rising in the cabin and in his spacesuit. He told Carpenter as he passed over Zanzibar, “Things are beginning to stack up a little.” Throughout the problems, Cooper remained cool, calm and collected. At the end of the 21st orbit, Cooper again contacted Glenn on the Coastal Sentry Quebec. He reported the spacecraft was in retro attitude and holding manually. The checklist was complete. Glenn gave a ten-second countdown to retrofire. Cooper kept the spacecraft aligned at a 34 degree pitchdown angle and manually fired the retrorockets on “Mark!”.

Fifteen minutes later the Faith 7 landed just four miles (6 km) from the prime recovery ship, the carrier USS Kearsarge. This was the most accurate landing to date, despite the lack of automatic controls. The landing spot was just 130 km south east of Midway Island, in the Pacific Ocean. Splashdown was at T+ 34-hours 19-minutes 49-seconds after liftoff. The spacecraft tipped over in the water momentarily, then righted itself. Helicopters dropped rescue swimmers and relayed Cooper’s request of an Air Force officer, for permission to be hoisted aboard the Navy’s carrier. Permission was granted, 40 minutes later the explosive hatch blew open on the deck of the Kearsarge. Cooper stepped out of the Faith 7 to a warm greeting. (Source of this full account is by Wikepedia)

Cooper thus concluded an amazing series of unmanned and manned flights (26) since 1959 drawing it to a successful conclusion which would lead the US space program confidently into project Gemini.

(For Gordon Coopers biography see Astronaut Autograph collection)



After the general success of the Mercury program throughout the early 1960’s publich awareness and confidence had grown sufficient for NASA’s goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the 60’s decade. American men had out the lives on the line for the ulitimate quest of being selected for the Lunar mission. It would still be six years before Armstrong would step down from the Lunar Module, and that would mean a lot more intense testing, Astronaut training , technology development, and of course a budget that would probably laughed out of the Senate in todays terms.

All to often we read about the heroic missions of the Apollo moon landing programs ,whilst in reality we must pay homage to all of those people involved in the pre Apollo programs that paved the way. Without a vast budget, a dedicated ground crew, test pilots, ground breaking scientists, technicians , administration staff and public support would we have ever seen Kennedys’ prophesy come to pass.

Gemini Goals

A specific goal was in place for the following:

To subject two men and their equipment to long duration flights for future deeper space missions ie (The Moon)

To be able to rendevous and dock with other crafts in orbit, and to maneuver those vehicles in space using the propulsion system of the target vehicle for such maneuevers.

To perfect methods of re-entry and landing the spacecraft at a pre-selected land-landing point.

To gain additional information concerning weightlessness on crew members, and to record the physiological reactions of crew members.



Gemini 3

Dates: 23rd March 1965

Crew: John Young  and Virgil ‘Gus’ Grissom

Mission Purpose: Gemini 3 became the first crewed Earth-orbiting spacecraft of the Gemini series. It was piloted both by experienced astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom and John Young. Their main objective was to demonstrate the crewed qualifications of the Gemini spacecraft including evaluation of the two-man Gemini design, the worldwide tracking network, the orbit attitude and maneuver system (OAMS), the control of reentry flight path and landing point, spacecraft systems, and spacecraft recovery.

Further to those very crucial tests they had objectives that included evaluation of flight crew equipment and effects of low level launch vehicle oscillations (POGO) on the crew, performance of three experimants, and to obtain photographic coverage from orbit.

After successful tests the Astronauts splashed down in the Atlantic in the vicinity of Grand Turk Island, at 22.43 that same day. Due to less-than-expected spacecraft lift during reentry, the spacecraft landed 111 km short of the target point.It was reported that both astronauts became seasick, removed their suits, and left the spacecraft at about 3:00 p.m. EST. They were picked up by helicopter and  were found to be in good condition. The Gemini capsule was recovered at 5:03 p.m. EST. Two of the three experiments were performed successfully, the third, sea urchin egg growth in zero-G, was not due to a mechanical failure. The photography objective was only partially achieved because of an improper lens on the 16 mm camera. All other mission objectives were achieved.


Gemini 4

Dates:  3rd June - June 7th 1965

Crew: James Mc divitt and Edward White

Mission Purpose: Gemini 4 was the second crewed mission of the Gemini series and was flown by James McDivitt and Edward White on a 4-day, 62-orbit mission. The mission had a major highlight which was the first American spacewalk, carried out by Ed White.

Mission objective as to test the performance of the astronauts and capsule and to evaluate work procedures, schedules, and flight planning for an extended length of time in space. Secondary objectives carried out were extraavehicular activity in space, conduct stationkeeping and rendezvous maneuvers, evaluate spacecraft systems, demonstrate the capability to make significant in-plane and out-of-plane maneuvers and use of the maneuvering system as a backup reentry system, and conduct 11 experiments. 

During there flight time the orbit was raised to 166 x 290 km during the first revolution to attempt a rendezvous with the second stage. This station-keeping exercise was cancelled early in the second revolution after a large depletion of 42% of the fuel, it was determined that use of more fuel would jeopardize other mission objectives. It was after this that Ed White got into special gear and pressurized his suit at 3.7 psi. McDivitt depressurized the cabin, bringing the pressure to zero at 2:33:35 p.m. EST, and the hatch was opened at 2:34. Ed White stood up two minutes later and exited the spacecraft using a hand-held gas gun at 2:46 to become the first American to walk in space. White was attached to the spacecraft by only an 8 meter tether. The gas gun fuel supply was depleted in 3 minutes, after which White pulled on the tether and twisted his body to maneuver around the spacecraft. The extravehicular activity (EVA) lasted 23 minutes, after which White pulled himself back into the spacecraft. An incredible fete for its time, and not for the faint hearted.

There was difficulty sealing the hatch, but working together the astronauts finally closed it, at 3:10 p.m. EST. Cabin repressurization began at 3:12:50. Drifting flight was maintained for the next 30 hours to conserve propellant. At 11:56:00 a.m. EST on June 7. Gemini 4 splashed down . The crew were recovered by helicopter and flown to the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Wasp at 1:09 p.m. and the capsule was recovered at 2:28 p.m.


Gemini 5

Dates: August 21st- August 29th 1965

Crew: Gordon Cooper and Charles ‘Pete’ Conrad

Mission Purpose: Gemini 5, carrying astronauts Gordon Cooper and Charles “Pete” Conrad was the third crewed Earth-orbiting spacecraft of the Gemini series. The flight was designed to last eight days and test rendezvous procedures. Again the major objectives of this mission were to demonstrate a long-duration crewed flight, evaluate the effects of long periods of weightlessness on the crew, and test rendezvous capabilities and maneuvers using a rendezvous evaluation pod.

Further objectives included demonstration of all phases of guidance and control systems which would support the rendezvous and controlled reentry guidance as well as to evaluate the fuel cell power system and rendezvous radar. Lastly they were to test the capability of either pilot to maneuver the spacecraft in orbit to close proximity with another object, and to conduct 17 given experiments during their mission. 

There were four rendevous tests to perform ,however on day 5 thruster number 7 became inoperative with the naneuvering system also becoming hard to handle. Later thruster 8 failed and there was limited experimental and operational activities due to the erratic behaviour of the equipment. Splashdown was successful , however it overshot by 169 kilometeres.


Gemini 7 (manned) Gemini 6A (manned)

Dates: December 4th -December 18th

Crew:James Lovell and Frank Borman (Gemini 7)Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra (Gemini 6A)

Mission Purpose: Gemini 6A and 7 was the fourth crewed Earth-orbiting spacecraft of the Gemini series, and was  launched before Gemini 6A.  Gemini 7  carried astronauts Frank Borman and Jim Lovell on their 14 day mission. Its mission priorities were as follows

 (1) to demonstrate a 2-week flight,

 (2) to perform stationkeeping with the Gemini launch vehicle stage 2,

(3) to evaluate the ’shirt sleeve’ environment and the lightweight pressure suit,

(4) to act as a rendezvous target for Gemini 6A

(5) to demonstrate controlled reentry close to the target landing point.

The crew members had three scientific, four technological, four spacecraft, and eight medical experiments to perform. A very full mission with the added task of working with a post flight launch of Gemini 6A .Immediately after separation Gemini 7 began station-keeping operations with the Titan II second stage at distances from 6 meters to 80 km over a period of 17 minutes. On the third revolution the perigee was raised to 230 km to ensure an orbital lifetime of 15 days which was required to successfully complete their mission.

On 6 December, 45 hours into the mission, Lovell removed his spacesuit to evaluate the shirtsleeve environment. The first five days were spent conducting experiments and spacecraft tests. On 9 December the orbit was circularized to 299.7 x 303.7 to prepare for the rendezvous exercise with Gemini 6A. On 10 December after neaely 5 days into the mission Lovell put his suit back on and Borman removed his. Some 20 hours later Lovell removed his suit as well and both astronauts operated without suits for the remainder of the mission except for the rendezvous with Gemini 6A and reentry.

Experiments were conducted over the next few days, then on 15 December Gemini 6A was launched. Gemini 6A caught up to Gemini 7 and rendezvous was technically achieved and station-keeping begun on 15 December at 2:33 p.m. EST with the two Gemini spacecraft in zero relative motion at a distance of 110 meters. These Station-keeping maneuvers involving the spacecraft circling each other and approaching and backing off continued for 5 hours 19 minutes over three and a half orbits. During the maneuvers, all four astronauts on both spacecraft took turns in the formation flying activities and photographs were taken from both spacecraft. This marked the first time two spacecraft were maneuvered with respect to each other by their crews. At the end of stationkeeping Gemini 6A fired thrusters to move to a position roughly 50 km away from Gemini 7 for drifting flight during the sleep period. Gemini 6A returned to Earth on December 16. Gemini 7 remained in Earth orbit and reentered two days later.

Splashdown followed at 9:05:04 in the western Atlantic southwest of Bermuda and the spacecraft successfully recovered. Total mission elapsed time was 330:35:01, making this the longest anyone had ever stayed in space.NASA announced that the astronauts were pronounced in “better than expected” physical condition after their two week flight.



Dates: 16 March 1966

Crew: Neil Armstrong and David Scott

Mission Purpose: Gemini 8 was the sixth crewed Earth-orbiting spacecraft of the Gemini series, carrying astronauts Neil Armstrong and David Scott. The main mission objectives were to perform rendezvous and four docking tests with the Agena target vehicle and to execute an ExtraVehicular Activity (EVA) experiment. Other objectives included parking the Agena in a 410 km circular orbit, performing a rerendezvous with the Agena, conduct systems evaluation, evaluating the auxiliary tape memory unit, and demonstration of controlled reentry. Ten technological, medical, and scientific experiments were carried on board.

Gemini 8 was launched on the 16 March 1966 and over the next six hours the spacecraft performed 9 maneuvers in order that it could rendezvous with the Gemini Agena Target Vehicle (GATV), which had been launched previously (at 9:00 a.m. EST). The rendezvous phase ended at 4:39 p.m. EST, with the spacecraft only 45 meters apart with zero relative motion. The usual station-keeping and other maneuvers were performed for about half an hour, and then Gemini 8 moved in and docked with the GATV on the 5th revolution at 5:14 p.m. This was the first docking ever to take place in space, and something Armstrong was to prove successful on with his control techniques for the future moon landing.

About 27 minutes after docking at 5:41 p.m. the combined vehicle began to go into a violent yaw and tumble. Armstrong disengaged the Gemini capsule from the GATV causing it to roll, pitch, and yaw even more rapidly than when it was connected to the GATV, approaching and possibly exceeding a rate of one revolution per second. Armstrong and Scott managed to deactivate the OAMS and in a final attempt to counteract the violent tumbling all 16 reentry control system (RCS) thrusters were utilized to damp out the roll.

This manuever was successful in stabilizing the spacecraft at 6:06:30 p.m. but ended up using a lot of the fuel (75%). It was then discovered that one of the 25-pound Orbit Atitude and Maneuver System (OAMS) roll thrusters (roll thruster no. 8) on Gemini 8 had been firing continuously, causing the tumbling. Apparently it had short-circuited while being used to maneuver the Gemini-GATV combination and had stuck open. Because of the premature use of the reentry control system an immediate landing was required by Gemini safety rules, so  unfortunately the planned EVA and other activities were cancelled. Retrofire took place on the 7th revolution at 9:45:49 p.m. on 16 March, just over 10 hours after launch, and the spacecraft splashed down in the western Pacific Ocean about 800 km west of Okinawa at 25.22 N, 136.00 E, 2 km from the target.  Total mission elapsed time was only 10:41:26.

Though the termination of the mission precluded achievement of many mission objectives, the rendezvous and docking was accomplished, as was the evaluation of the auxiliary tape memory unit and demonstration of controlled reentry. Of the six scientific experiments only the Agena micrometeorite collection was successful.



Dates: June 3rd - June 6th 1966

Crew: Tom Stafford and Eugene Cernan

Mission Purpose: Gemini 9A was the seventh crewed Earth-orbiting spacecraft of the Gemini series and astronauts Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan were on board with these objectives:

 (1) rendezvous techniques and docking with a target vehicle to simulate manuevers to be carried out on future Apollo missions,

(2) an ExtraVehicular Activity (EVA) spacewalk to test the Astronaut Maneuvering Unit (AMU), and

(3) precision landing capability. Scientific objectives included obtaining zodiacal light and airglow horizon photographs. Two micrometeorite studies were to be carried out, and there were also one medical and two technological experiments.

After a postponement was postponed Gemini 9A was launched on 3 June at 8:39:33 a.m. EST (13:39:33.335 UT) and inserted into a 158.8 x 266.9 km orbit. After three orbital maneuvers they were within 8 meters of the ATDA. As it was confirmed that the launch shroud on the ATDA had failed to action and was blocking the docking port the flight plan was then revised to include two equiperiod passive rerendezvous maneuvers in place of the docking.

On 5 June at 10:02 a.m. EST the Gemini capsule was depressurized and the hatch above Cernan opened.Astronaut Cernan was externally out of the spacecraft at 10:19 being attached by an 8 meter long tether which was connected to Gemini’s oxygen supply.Cernan retrieved the micrometeorite impact detector attached to the side of the capsule and then moved about the spacecraft. He had great difficulty manuevering and maintaining orientation on the long tether. Whilst outside Cernan took photographs of Gemini from the full length of the tether and finally moved to the back of the capsule where the Astronaut Maneuvering Unit (AMU) was mounted. He was scheduled to put on the AMU, disconnect from the Gemini oxygen supply (although he would still be attached to the spacecraft with a longer, thinner tether) and move to 45 meters from the capsule. The system of  getting into  the AMU took nearly five times more work than anticipated which overwhelmed  Cernan’s environmental control system and causing his faceplate to fog up resulting in poor visability..

It was also discovered that the AMU radio transmissions were distorted and because of this  Stafford insisted Cernan  was to return to the spacecraft. Cernan re-entered the spacecraft at 12:05 p.m. and the hatch was closed at 12:10. Cernan was the third person to walk in space and his total time of 2 hours, 8 minutes was the longest spacewalk yet.

Retrofire occurred at the end of the 45th revolution on 6 June at 8:26:17 a.m and splashdown was at 9:00:23 in the western Atlantic at under 10 kilometers from target.

(For Eugene Cernan and Tom Staffords biographies see Astronaut Autograph Collection)



Dates: July 18th -July 21st 1966

Crew:John Young and Michael Collins

Mission Purpose: Gemini 10 was the eighth crewed Earth-orbiting spacecraft of the Gemini series, with astronauts John Young and Michael Collins. Its main objective purpose was to conduct rendezvous and docking tests with the Agena target vehicle. The mission also  included a rendezvous with the Gemini 8 Agena target, two extravehicular activity (EVA) excursions, and the performance of 15 scientific, technological, and medical experiments. These scientific experiments were related to  the following (1) zodiacal light, synoptic terrain, and synoptic weather photography, (2) micrometeorite collections, (3) UV astronomical camera, (4) ion wake measurements, and (5) meteoroid erosion.

Gemini 10 was launched on 18 July from Complex 19 at 5:20:26 p.m. EST . At orbit insertion Gemini 10 was about 1600 km behind the Gemini Agena Target Vehicle 10 (GATV-10) which had been launched into a near circular orbit about 100 minutes earlier. Rendezvous with GATV-10 was achieved on the 4th revolution at 10:43 p.m. and at 11:13:03 p.m. docking was achieved. Due to an out-of-plane error in the initial orbit required the Gemini to use 60% of its fuel for the rendezvous, this was over twice the planned amount. To conserve fuel, Gemini 10 remained docked to GATV-10 for the next 39 hours and used the GATV propulsion system for maneuvers. The planned docking practice runs were cancelled.

A 14-second burn of the GATV-10 primary propulsion system was used to raise the dual spacecraft apogee to 764 km. While the spacecraft were docked, a bending mode test was conducted to study spacecraft dynamics and other experiments were performed. Another burn of GATV-10 at 3:58 p.m. on 19 July brought the spacecraft into the same orbit as the GATV-8, which had been launched on 16 March for the Gemini 8 mission. At 4:44 p.m. the Gemini cabin pressure was reduced to zero and the hatch was opened.

Collins stood up in his seat 3 minutes later and began photographing stellar UV radiation. Partway into the standup EVA Young and Collins began to experience severe eye irritation from an unidentified source and Young ordered termination of the EVA. Collins sat down and the hatch was closed at 5:33 p.m., and a high oxygen flow rate was used to purge the environmental control system.

Gemini 10 separated from GATV-10 at 2:00 p.m. EST on 20 July. A series of manuevers using its own thrusters brought Gemini 10 within about 15 meters of GATV-8. At 6:01 p.m. (48:41 ground elapsed time) the cabin was evacuated and the hatch opened for Collins to begin his second EVA. Collins left the spacecraft 6 minutes later attached to an umbilical cord and travelled to the GATV-8. Despite difficulties due to lack of handholds on the target vehicle Collins removed the fairing and retrieved the micrometeoroid detection equipment. During the EVA he lost his camera. He also retrieved the micrometeorite experiment mounted on the Gemini 10 spacecraft, but this apparently floated out of the hatch and was lost when Collins reentered the capsule.

The EVA was limited to 25 minutes of outside activity this was  due to lack of fuel. Collins reentered the capsule at 6:32 p.m. and the hatch was closed at 6:40. The hatch was reopened again at 7:53 p.m. to jettison 12 items before reentry. After about three hours of stationkeeping Gemini 10 moved away from GATV-8. At 8:59 p.m. the crew performed an anomaly adjust maneuver to minimize reentry dispersions resulting from the retrofire maneuver.

Retrorocket ignition took place during the 43rd revolution on 21 July at 3:30:50 p.m. EST and splashdown occurred at 4:07:05 p.m. in the western Atlantic at 26.74 N, 71.95 W, 875 km east of Cape Kennedy and 6.3 km from the target point. The crew was picked up by helicopter.



Dates: September 6th -September 15th 1966

Crew: Charles ‘Pete’ Conrad and Richard Gordon

Mission Purpose: Gemini 11 was the ninth crewed Earth-orbiting spacecraft of the Gemini series, and carried astronauts Charles “Pete” Conrad and Richard Gordon, both who went on to serve with Apollo moon missions.The 3-day mission was designed to achieve a first orbit rendezvous and docking with the Agena target vehicle, to accomplish two ExtraVehicular Activity (EVA) tests, to perform docking practice, docked configuration maneuvers, tethered operations, parking of the Agena target vehicle and demonstrate an automatic reentry. This was almost bringing to an end the era of Gemini to make way for Apollo 1 in 1967.

Further to the main priorities there were also eight scientific and four technological experiments on board. The scientific experiments were (1) synergistic effect of zero-g and radiation on white blood cells, (2) synoptic terrain photography, (3) synoptic weather photography, (4) nuclear emulsions, (5) airglow horizon photography, (6) UV astronomical photography, (7) Gemini ion wake measurement, and (8) dim sky photography.

Gemini 11 was launched on 12 September 1966 at 9:42:26 a.m. EST and inserted into a 160.5 x 279.1 km Earth orbit at 9:48:28. There were spacecraft maneuvers made to rendezvous with the Gemini Agena Target Vehicle 11 (GATV-11) at 11:07 a.m.  The GATV-11 had been previously launched 90 minutes before Gemini 11. Docking was completed at 11:16 a.m. on the first orbit, consuming less fuel than expected. Both Conrad and Gordon then conducted two docking exercises with the GATV, and then a maneuver at 2:14:14 p.m. brought the docked spacecraft into a 287 x 304 km orbit. The sleep period was spent in docked configuration.

On 13 September at 9:44 a.m the Gemini cabin atmosphere was evacuated and the hatch opened to begin Richard Gordon’s scheduled 107 minute EVA. He was  attached by an umbilical cord. Gordon set up a movie camera and retrieved the micrometeorite experiment. The next task, detaching one end of the 30 meter tether from the Agena and attaching it to the Gemini spacecraft docking bar, proved to be exhausting and overstressed Gordon’s life support system. After attaching the tether, Gordon stopped to rest astride the GATV, but due to the heavy perspiration inside the suit blurred his vision and even eventually blinded his right eye.

Conrad ordered him to cancel operations and return to the cabin. Gordon returned to the cabin at about 10:12 a.m. and closed the hatch at 10:17 a.m. so the cabin could be repressurized. At 11:19 a.m. the hatch was opened again to jettison some excess equipment. There followed a sleep period, the Agena primary propulsion system was fired for 25 seconds at 2:12:41 a.m. EST on 14 September, raising the docked spacecraft apogee to 1374.1 km. (this was a record altitude for an astronaut mission that would stand until Apollo 8 went to the Moon.)

After two orbits the Agena was fired again for 22.5. Gordon opened his hatch to begin a 2 hour 8 minute standup EVA during which he conducted photographic experiments. The hatch was closed at 9:57 a.m. and shortly afterwards the spacecraft were undocked and Gemini 11 moved to the end of the 30 meter tether attaching the two spacecraft. At 11:55 a.m. Conrad started a slow rotation of the Gemini capsule about the GATV which kept the tether taut and the spacecraft a constant distance apart at the ends of the tether. Oscillations occurred initially, but damped out after about 20 minutes. The rotation rate was then increased, oscillations again occurred but damped out and the combination stabilised. Gemini 11,  demonstated for the the first time  artificial gravity in space. After about three hours the tether was released and the spacecraft moved apart. A fuel cell stack failed at 4:13 p.m., but the remaining stacks took over the load satisfactorally. At 4:22 a.m. on 15 September a final rerendezvous maneuver without use of the rendezvous radar, which had malfunctioned, was accomplished.

Retrofire occurred at the end of the 44th revolution at 8:24:03 a.m. EST on 15 September and lead to eventual splashdown in the western Atlantic at 24.25 N, 70.00 W, 4.9 km from the target point, occurred at 8:59:35 a.m. EST. a.m. Total mission time was 71:17:08. A successful mission where all primary objectives were accomplished, and the last rerendezvous added to the mission plan due to the favorable fuel supply.

(For Pete Conrad and Richard Gordons’ biographies please see Astronaut Autograph Collection)


Gemini 12

Dates: November 11-November 15th 1966

Crew:James Lovell and Buzz Aldrin

Mission Purpose.. This was to be the last Gemini flight and the 10th mission achieved. The crew chosen were astronauts Jim Lovell and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and their task was to perform rendezvous and docking with the Agena target vehicle, to conduct three ExtraVehicular Activity (EVA) operations, to conduct a tethered stationkeeping exercise, to perform docked maneuvers using the Agena propulsion system to change orbit, and demonstrate an automatic reentry. There were  a number of scientific, medical, and technological experiments on board totalling 14.

Gemini 12 was launched from Complex 19 on 11 November 1966 at 3:46:33 p.m. EST and inserted into a 160.8 x 270.6 km Earth orbit at 3:52:40. At 7:32 p.m. rendezvous was achieved with the Gemini Agena Target Vehicle (GATV), which had been launched 90 minutes before Gemini 12. Docking with the GATV was accomplished 28 minutes later, at 4:14 ground elapsed time (GET) on the third orbit, relying heavily on visual sightings due to problems with the onboard radar.

During insertion of the GATV into orbit they noticed a problem in the primary propulsion system, so the plan to use the GATV to lift the docked spacecraft into a higher orbit was abandoned. Instead two phasing maneuvers using the GATV secondary propulsion system were accomplished, and this  to allowed the spacecraft to rendezvous with the November 12 total eclipse over South America at about 9:20 a.m. EST with the crew taking pictures through the spacecraft windows.

The first standup EVA took place with the hatch opening at 11:15 a.m. EST (19:29 GET) on 12 November with Buzz Aldrin standing on his seat with his upper body out of the hatch. The EVA lasted 2 hours 29 minutes during which Aldrin mounted a camera to the side of the spacecraft collecting a micrometeorite experiment, with the hatch closing at 1:44 p.m. On 13 November at 7:16 a.m. the crew reported little or no thrust was available from two of the maneuvering thrusters. At 10:34 a.m. (42:48 GET) the hatch was opened for the second EVA. Aldrin was outside the spacecraft at 10:38, attached to a 9 meter umbilical cord. Firstly he worked in the hatch and nose area, and then moved along a handrail he had installed to the adapter section where he used foot restraints and tethers to position himself in front of a work panel mounted on the rear of the adaptor where he performed 17 relatively simple manual tasks. He then moved to the target vehicle adapter area and carried out another series of tasks, including use of a torque wrench while tethered. During this EVA he attached a 30 meter long tether stowed in the GATV adapter to the Gemini adapter bar. A  dozen two-minute rest periods were scheduled during the EVA to prevent Aldrin from becoming overtaxed as we have seen happen to previous spacewalkers. Aldrin reentered the capsule at 12:33 p.m. and closed the hatch at 12:40 p.m. It was reported that all tasks were accomplished and total EVA time was 2 hours 6 minutes.

At 3:09 p.m. Gemini 12 undocked from the GATV, moved to the end of the tether connecting the two vehicles, and began the tether experiment by moving in a cicular orbit about the GATV. The tether tended to remain slack, but the crew believed the two craft slowly attained gravity-gradient stabilization. The tether was released at 7:37 p.m. On 14 November the hatch was opened at 9:52 a.m. (66:06 GET) and Aldrin began the second standup EVA .This EVA included photography, additional experiments and the jettison of unused equipment. The EVA ended after 55 minutes when the hatch was closed at 10:47 a.m. Minor fuel cell and thruster problems were reported, but did not affect the remainder of the mission.

The automatically controlled reentry sequence began with retrofire at the end of revolution 59 on 15 November at 1:46:31 p.m. EST with Splashdown occurring at 2:21:04 p.m. in the western Atlantic. The crew was picked up by helicopter and brought aboard the U.S.S. Wasp at 2:49 p.m., the spacecraft was picked up at 3:28 p.m. Total mission elapsed time was 94:34:31. During this mission  scientific experiments that were successfully achieved were  (1) frog egg growth under zero-g, (2) synoptic terrain photography, (3) synoptic weather photography, (4) nuclear emulsions, (5) airglow horizon photography, (6) UV astronomical photography, and (7) dim sky photography. Two micrometeorite collection experiments, as well as three space phenomena photography experiments, were not fully completed.

(For Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrins’ biographies please see Astronaut Autograph Collection)

And so we see the end of a long period oftest flights for the Gemini missions with te majority of objectives and experiments successful. Certain Astronauts were later selected for the Moon missions, these Astronauts were: Pete Conrad, James Lovell, Richard Gordon, Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Cene Cernan, John Young and Dave Scott. Out of these: Conrad, Armstrong, Aldrin, Cernan, Young and Scott would walk on the surface of the moon between 1969 and 1972.



America’s main  competition in particular during the 1960’s space race to the Lunar surface were the Soviets. They were already well advanced in projecting Satellites into outer Orbit after success with Sputnik 1. There history gives us a fascinating insight into a Nation determined to win the Cold war that was going on between themselves and the USA.For them it would incorporated a roller coaster ride of both success and tragedy,much of which would probably still not be known to a space enthused public. We must however salute there remarkable achievement of placing the first human (Yuri Gagarin into space and successfully bringing him back again

Soviet Space journey

It is know surprise that the Soviet military have had a great deal of authority in their progra. What was  once a world-wide superpower engulfed in secrecy and often in proproganda competition with the USA, the Soviet Union set an early ‘Pace for Space’. Their manned or scientific space missions could be justified if seen to be in co-operation with the mighty military presence. They say that it was actually as little as 20% Soviet launches which were considered for ‘national prestige’ purposes , namely (civilian manned flights, scientific and planetary).

Working to both five and ten year projects we see that their first such plan was approved in 1961, with setbacks along the way due to USA Star Wars program of events around 1985. Russian space historians variously refer to three or four generations of space systems, resulting in some confusion.

Way back between 1950 to 1960 were the very first serious studies for spacecraft and launch vehicles were actually taking place in 1956. There were three projects that were agreed for development: the ISZ first earth satellite (we know that this was launched as Sputnik-3); the Zenit photo-reconnaissance satellite; and the Vostok first manned spacecraft. Vostok is probably their most historically reknown spacecraft that was developed.

After much hype and propoganda surrounding  the first Sputnik in 1957 there then took place a real plan to develop both rockets and satellites necessary for the first probes of the Moon, and much deeper into space with Mars, and Venus. These would be developed long term as space launchers and spacecraft. Their known ambitious plans for manned expeditions no doubt sparked of the USA program into getting a man on the Moon first. Had it not been for some significant set backs they may have made it. The beginning of the 1960’s saw an amazing total of thirty space systems that actually, which with intervention by the Military this was reduced greatly. 

There were Military research programs from 1962 to 1964 code-named Shchit (space systems), Osnova (space equipment), and Ediniy KIK (ground systems) which mapped out the first generation of Soviet operational space systems which were deployed from1966-1975.

Soviet military objective was to integrate space forces into overall military planning, taking into account the most cost-effective use of resources.In 1970 were projects Prognoz and Sirius Phase I. and there was the development of the first nine systems of the second generation, these were completed in 1974-1975 with space flight trials carried out in the second half of the 1970’s. This lead on to the second group of  these second generation systems being developed in the second half of the 1970’s being actually deployed in the first half of the 1980’s. Soviet space history tells us that from 1971-1976 a total of 14 new space systems entered military service, and 16 were in operation. This was indeed a huge commitment, and that commitment is shown clearly today with what was the MIR space station and now working together on the International Space Station (ISS) as a space community. 

Moving forward with the third generation projects (1985 to 1990) these space systems constituted an integrated Multi-Element Space System, including interestingly the planned Multi-echelon Anti Ballistic Missile System. We see already that military rather than science was shaping the program at that time. However in 1985 these plans were cut back and rationalised to a condensed programme which would meet the American Strategic Defence Initiative challenge during what was by then their 12th Five Year Plan (1986-1990).


Of course in 1991 with  the break-up of the Soviet Union caused the launch site for the largest launch vehicles and the main planned launch vehicle producer being outside of Russia. That gives a very brief look at the Russian program, but it is right to provide a separate account of the MIR space station which is given below:



We have been familiar with the MIR space station for some years now and seen its develop grow into a very useable multi function works station. The word Mir  actually means “Peace” and “community” in Russian. with this space station contributing to world peace by way  hosting international scientists and American astronauts. Its purpose is to continually and successfully support a community of humans in orbit and symbolized the commonwealth of the Russian people.

Mir was a huge project which resulted in the construction of it taking place in orbit achieved by connecting different modules,. These modules were launched separately during a period from 1986 to 1996. It was good timing that the United States Shuttle program was by the well developed and able to combine its capabilities with MIR.. The orbiting Mir provided a large and livable scientific laboratory in space. The space shuttle missions would thus visit providing transportation and supplies creating history’s largest spacecraft, with a combined mass of 250 tons.

The view from a shuttle widow woud have been superb when in sight of the 100-ton Mir as it was as vast in size eclipsing by far the length of an average football pitch. Inside was apparently pretty cramped  as it had to hold everyday requirements for long stays. as well as scientific instruments and complicated equipment for research. Designed to house a comfotable 3 crew members it sometimes had to accomodate up to six for periods of a month up until It commonly housed three crewmembers, but it sometimes supported as many as six, for up to a ceasing in 1999. Its final journey was in 2001 after 15 years it re-entered the Earths atmosphere destined for the Pacific ocean.

Posted on May 1st, 2010. 1 Comment »


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“We all saw the moon, many prepared the way,but few stepped on”

holiday-and-space-054.jpg 11969-2009

“Thats one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” 

The fortieth anniversary of the 1969 moon landing will identify once again that with sheer grit and determination, that what seems impossible to man, is indeed very possible ! It was not so much July 21st 1969 that caused us all to remember that unforgettable day, but perhaps rather the ten year quest by many who believed that they could. “Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin will always be remembered as the first human beings to walk on the Lunar surface, however Michael Collins was the very first Astronaut to ensure that they safely made it home”

A few years previous Russian Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov became the first man to walk in space. His historic spacewalk  took him outside the spacecraft for 12 minutes on March 18 1965. Leonov was only connected to the craft by a five-foot tether, and nearly lost his life because at the end of his spacewalk his spacesuit had inflated in the vacuum of space so much that he could not re-enter the airlock. Probably it was only the training he would have been given by the many ground crew staff over a pro-longed period of time that enabled him to think quick, and to save his own life!

On the 21st of August 1965 Gordon Cooper flew as Command Pilot of Gemini 5 on an eight day mission with Pete Conrad. They achieved as Astronauts a new space endurance record by travelling a distance of 3,312,993 miles (5,331,745 km) in 190 hours and 56 minutes. This was particularly signficant as it proved that it was possible to endure a flight to the Moon and back. Whilst many were wondering when President Kennedy’s goal and prediction of getting a man on the surface of the Moon by the end of the sixties decade would become a reality, a vast array of people were preparing vital missions to ensure that it would.

Over a fifty year period we have been able to enjoy what was once the impossible dream with the likes of remarkable men and women putting their lives at high risk for the benefit of the advancement of many technologies. Men like Yuri Gagarin (first human in space), Alan Shepherd, first American to push further space travel, Valentina Tershkova, first Cosmonaut lady to experience space travel.  John Glenn (Mercury Missions) who flew the first U.S. orbital mission aboard Friendship 7 in February 1962. Apollo 10, and Gemini 6 and 9 Astronaut Tom Stafford who in December 1965 piloted Gemini 6 during the first rendezvous in space, and also helped in the development of techniques to prove rendezvous practicalities.

And what of the many people who lost their lives in this remarkable quest to the Lunar surface ?  Brave Astronauts such as Virgil Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee who all died together in tragic circumstances through a flash fire inside a  capsule being tested in 1967 for project  Apollo 1. Through this tragic event NASA learnt much concerning safety and precautions that would now be required even more so if the likes of Armstrong Collins and Aldrin were to make it to the Moon and back. Two other well known incidents around the Russian space programs ( Soyuz 1 and 11) happened in 1967 and 1971 causing the loss of lives of four Cosmonauts as they attempted re-entry on their return to Earth.

Perhaps then we should reflect on just how Astronauts of that era  would have felt at that tragic moment in time ? Whilst also remembering the brave men and women who died on future space travel missions such as the Space Shuttle. Their reliance on technical crews , back up crews and of course each other must give incredible security to their dreams, so when tragic technical incidents do happen, how much more brave are those who still choose to follow their Astronaut careers?

This leads me on to say that in stark reality I guess there were never ever only twelve men who walked on the surface of the Moon from 1969 to 1972, but rather thousands of men and women who took hold of “The Vision” with them also. One of the reasons I am writing this is that nearly every conversation I have concerning the validity of men walking on the Moon results in negative disbelief by the public that it never actually took place for real ? Whilst I admit that I have never ever spoken to a single Astronaut in my entire life to date, I have at the very least looked at over 50 years of evidence to realise these remarkable people gave us their very all, for some of them this would be their very lives ! 

Whether we choose to believe that Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin made it to the Moon or not ? and I do ! At the very least we must recognise a magnificent decade of unsurpassed achievements that still stretch peoples imaginations and visions today. Their legacy has inspired many many space travel success stories, including: Apollo Soyuz Test Project (ASTP), Skylab, Space Shuttle, MIR Space station, and Brian Binnie for Spaceship One.

Gary Royston Cole (May 2009)





Dates: 27 th January 1967

Crew…Roger Chafee, Ed White and Virgil ‘Gus’ Grissom

Mission: Was to be the first test run for the Apollo missions. Tradegy struck after earlier complaints by the Astronauts when a flash fire caused utter devastation inside the capsule which unfortunately was being tested by all three Astronauts. Gus Grissom was apparently eamarked to command Apollo 11 the first Lunar landing. NASA had to re-think their  safety program , and was in due course re-structured into more of what we still see today.



Dates: October 11th -October 22nd 1968

Crew:     Walter Schirra Jr……………Commander , 
               R. Walter Cunningham…….Lunar Module Pilot
               Donn F. Eisele……………….Command Module Pilot

 Support crew

  • Ronald E. Evans
  • Edward G. Givens Jnr
  • John L. Swigert, Jr
  • William R. Pogue

Flight Directors

  • Glynn Lunney (Lead)…
  • Black Team Gene Kranz…
  • White Team Gerry Griffin…Gold Team

  Pad 34 (8) Saturn-1B AS-205 () CSM-101 () 1st Block II CSM 1st Manned CSM mission 1st 3 man American crew 1st Live TV downlink

Mission Purpose : The mission purpose for the Apollo 7 engineering test flight since the tradegy of Apollo 1 was to demonstrate command and service module, or CSM, and crew performance;  and to demonstrate crew, space vehicle and mission support facilities performance during a crewed CSM mission; and demonstrate CSM rendezvous capability.

The Apollo vehicle and the CSM performed extremely well for almost 11 days which is actually longer than a journey to the moon and back. Though the crew complained about noisy fans in the environmental circuits the cabin remained comfortable despite the lack of overall space. The flight caused three of the five spacecraft windows to fog because of improperly cured sealant compound, a condition that could not be fixed until Apollo 9. The visibility attained from the spacecraft windows ranged from poor to good during the mission. Navigational sighting with a telescope and a sextant was at times difficult. Sometimes they had to wait several minutes for the frozen particles to disperse. Eisele reported that unless he could see at least 40 or 50 stars at a time he found it hard to decide what part of the sky he was looking toward. One of the most common questions asked about these missions is toilet procedures: It was reported that the crew had a total of only 12 defecations during a period of nearly 11 days. Urination was much easier, as the crew did not have to remove clothing, which must have proved difficult.There was a collection service for both the pressure suits and the in-flight coveralls. Both devices could be attached to the urine dump hose and emptied into space. Overall a successful mission with no serious complications, and various feedback on what could be improved.



 Pad 39-A (3)  Saturn-V AS-503 (3)  High Bay 1  MLP 1  Firing Room 1 

 Dates: December 21st- December 27th 1968

Crew:    Frank Borman…………Commander 
             William A. Anders……Lunar.. Module Pilot
             James A. Lovell Jr…..Command Module Pilot

  • Back Up Crew
  • Neil Armstrong :   Commander
  • Fred W. Haise Jr.  Lunar Module Pilot
  • Edwin E. Aldrin Jr:Command Module Pilot

Flight Directors:

  • Cliff Charlesworth (Green Team), launch and EVA
  •  Glyn Lunnet(Black team)
  •  Milton Windler (Maroon team)

Mission Purpose: The mission purpose for Apollo 8 included a coordinated performance of the crew, the command and service module, or CSM, and the support facilities. The mission had to demonstrate translunar injection;( this is a propulsive maneuver used to set a spacecraft on a trajectory which will arrive at the Moon). CSM navigation, communications and midcourse corrections; consumable assessment; and passive thermal control. The detailed test objectives were to refine the systems and procedures relating to future lunar operations. The first midcourse correction occured at about 10 hours, 55 minutes into the mission and provided a first check on the service propulsion system, or SPS, engine prior to committing spacecraft to lunar orbit insertion.

There was a loss of signal after 68 hours, 58 minutes, 45 seconds when Apollo 8 passed behind the moon. At that moment, NASA’s three astronauts became the first humans to see the moon’s far side, no doubt an amazing sight. During the 20-hour period in lunar orbit, the crew conducted a full, sleepless schedule of tasks including landmark and landing site tracking, vertical stereo photography, stereo navigation photography and sextant navigation.  This was a very full mission to  determine future landing places and procedures for Apollo 11. 10 Lunar orbits achieved and six telecasts were conducted during the mission: two during translunar coast, two during lunar orbit and two during trans-Earth coast. These (if you are old enough to remember) were telecast worldwide and in real time to all five continents. During a telecast on Christmas Eve, the crew read verses from the first chapter of Genesis and wished viewers, “Good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas and God bless all of you — all of you on the good Earth.” All of the telecasts were of excellent quality and voice communications also were exceptionally good throughout the mission. An incredible achievement by all those involved in the pioneering work of comminication, without those early pioneers we may well have not got to the Moon at all. For re-entry the velocity was 24,696 mph, with heatshield temperatures reaching and incredible 5,000 degrees F. Apollo 8 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 10:51 a.m. EST Dec. 27. The splashdown was about 5,100 yards from the recovery ship USS Yorktown, 147 hours after launch and precisely on time, and incredible achievement considering considering the unchartered teritory the Astronauts had been in.



Pad 39-A (4)  Saturn-V AS-504 (4)  High Bay 3  MLP 2 Firing Room 2

 Dates: March 3rd-March 13th 1969

 Crew:      James A. McDivitt…………..Commander
                Russell L. Schweickart…….Lunar Module Pilot
                David R. Scott……………….Command Module Pilot

Back up Crew

  • Charles Conrad
  • Richard Gordon
  • Alan Bean

Flight Directors

  • Gene KrantzWhite team
  • Gerry GriffinGold team
  • Pete Frank, Orange team
  • Mission Purpose:The main objective of Apollo 9 was an Earth-orbital engineering test of the first crewed lunar module, or LM. The main considerations included an overall checkout of launch vehicle and spacecraft systems, the crew, and procedures. This was done by performing an integrated series of flight tasks with the command module, or CM, the service module, or SM, the joined command and service module, or CSM, the LM and S-IVB stage while they were linked in launch or various docked configurations, and while they were flying separate orbital patterns. The LM had to be self sufficient and had to to be tested as a self sufficient spacecraft, which was able to perform active rendezvous and docking maneuvers  for the following Apollo 10 lunar-orbit mission.The flight plan’s top priority was the CSM and LM rendezvous and docking.

    This was performed twice as part of the mission.  Other obejectives were the internal crew transfer from the docked CSM to the LM; special tests of the LM’s support systems; crew procedures; and tests of flight equipment and the extravehicular activity, or EVA, mobility unit. The crew also adapted the  LM to support a two-hour EVA, and simulated an LM crew rescue, which would be the only planned EVA from the LM before an actual lunar landing.A complex procedure vital to the success of any Moon landing involved the separation of the CSM from the SLA in Earth orbit and jettison of the SLA’s LM protective panels. Procedures included also  The S-IVB engine  being in a position to restart twice, placing the stage in an Earth-escape trajectory and into solar orbit. This would simulate a translunar injection (this is a propulsive maneuver used to set a spacecraft on a trajectory which will arrive at the Moon) of the stage for Apollo 10 and subsequent lunar missions. Other objectives included the multi-spectral photographic experiment for subsequent crewed spacecraft. The mission objectives were met in full and all the major spacecraft systems were successfully demonstrated. NASA were now left with one final mission (Apollo 10) before embarking on their goal of reaching the lunar surface by the end of the decade as Kennedy had predicted.

    APOLLO 10


    Pad 39-B (1)  Saturn-V AS-505 (5)  1st Launch LC-39B  High Bay 2  MLP 3  Firing Room 3 

    Dates: May 18th -May 26th 1969

    Crew:      Thomas Stafford……Commander
                    Eugene Cernan……..Lunar Module Pilot
                    John Young………….Command Module Pilot

    Back up Crew

    • Gordon Cooper
    • Donn Eisele
    • Edgar Mitchell

    Flight Directors

  • Glynn Lunney..Black team
  • Gerry Griffin..Gold team
  • Milton Widler..Maroon team
  • Pete Frank ..Orange team
  • Mission Purpose:  The one before the big one! The Apollo 10 mission included  all aspects of an actual crewed lunar landing, except the landing except the landing itself. It was the  very first flight of a complete crewed Apollo spacecraft to operate around the moon. Objectives included  making a a scheduled eight-hour lunar orbit of the separated lunar module, or LM, and descent very close to the moons surface (nine miles) before ascending for rendezvous and docking with the command and service module, or CSM, in about a 70-mile circular lunar orbit. The crew had to gather important data to be gathered in this landing rehearsal, and also  spaceflight network tracking techniques as well as to check out LM programmed trajectories and radar, and lunar flight control systems.During this flight the LM flew over Landing Site 2 in the Sea of Tranquility.

    To give you an idea of the complexities of this mission we know that  the LM landing radar was tested for altitude functioning, providing both “high gate” and “low gate” data. There followed a  a 7.5-second firing of the LM reaction control system, or RCS, thrusters, the descent engine fired in two bursts for 40.1 seconds — at 10 percent and at full throttle — placing the LM into an orbit of 13.7 by 219 miles. On the 14th revolution, it reached a pericynthion (armchair view of the world) of 12.7 miles and was “staged.” The descent stage jettisoned on a second attempt and an uncontrollable gyration of the ascent stage occurred. It was later attributed to an error in a flight-plan checklist, causing an incorrect switch position. There were a total of twelve television transmissions to Earth and NASA reported that all mission objectives were achieved. NASA was now ready to go for the moon in the next 2 months. It is worth mentioning at this point that since the Apollo 1 disaster every subsequent mission beween Apollo 7 and 11 was a success. NASA had proved that its stringent safety methods and technical ground crew were of a standard to achieve the ultimate goal. 

     APOLLO 11 (The first landing on the Moon)


    Pad 39-A (5)  Saturn-V AS-506 (6)  High Bay 1  MLP 1  Firing Room 1 

    Dates: July 16th -July 24th 1969

    Crew:    Neil Armstrong …………Commander

    Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. …..Lunar Module Pilot


    Michael Collins………..Command Module Pilot


    Back Up Crew

    • James Lovell
    • William Anders
    • Fred Haise

    Flight Directors

    • Cliff Charlesworth ..Green Team, launch and EVA 
    •  Gene Krantz..White Team, lunar landing
    •  Glynn Lunney..Black Team, lunar ascent

     Mission Purpose:  The primary objective of Apollo 11 was to perform a crewed lunar landing and return to Earth.
    The Astronauts  were to conduct scientific exploration by the lunar module, or LM, crew; deployment of a television camera to transmit signals to Earth; and deployment of a solar wind composition experiment, seismic experiment package and a Laser Ranging Retroreflector. Whilst on the Lunar surface the two astronauts (Armstrong and Aldrin) were to gather samples of lunar-surface materials for return to Earth. They also had to extensively photograph the lunar terrain, the deployed scientific equipment, the LM spacecraft, and each other, both with still and motion picture cameras. This mission was to be the last  of Apollo to fly a “free-return” trajectory, which would enable, if necessary, a ready abort of the mission when the combined command and service module/lunar module, or CSM/LM, prepared for insertion into lunar orbit.


    The trajectory would occur by firing the service propulsion subsystem, (SPS), engine so as to merely circle behind the moon and emerge in a trans-Earth return trajectory.NASA describe their incredible journey like this:Two hours, 44 minutes and one-and-a-half revolutions after launch, the S-IVB stage reignited for a second burn of five minutes, 48 seconds, placing Apollo 11 into a translunar orbit. The command and service module, or CSM, Columbia separated from the stage, which included the spacecraft-lunar module adapter, or SLA, containing the lunar module, or LM, Eagle. After transposition and jettisoning of the SLA panels on the S-IVB stage, the CSM docked with the LM. The S-IVB stage separated and injected into heliocentric orbit four hours, 40 minutes into the flight.The first color TV transmission to Earth from Apollo 11 occurred during the translunar coast of the CSM/LM. Later, on July 17, a three-second burn of the SPS was made to perform the second of four scheduled midcourse corrections programmed for the flight. The launch had been so successful that the other three were not needed.On July 18, Armstrong and Aldrin put on their spacesuits and climbed through the docking tunnel from Columbia to Eagle to check out the LM, and to make the second TV transmission.


    On July 19, after Apollo 11 had flown behind the moon out of contact with Earth, came the first lunar orbit insertion maneuver. At about 75 hours, 50 minutes into the flight, a retrograde firing of the SPS for 357.5 seconds placed the spacecraft into an initial, elliptical-lunar orbit of 69 by 190 miles. Later, a second burn of the SPS for 17 seconds placed the docked vehicles into a lunar orbit of 62 by 70.5 miles, which was calculated to change the orbit of the CSM piloted by Collins. The change happened because of lunar-gravity perturbations to the nominal 69 miles required for subsequent LM rendezvous and docking after completion of the lunar landing. Before this second SPS firing, another TV transmission was made, this time from the surface of the moon.On July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin entered the LM again, made a final check, and at 100 hours, 12 minutes into the flight, the Eagle undocked and separated from Columbia for visual inspection. At 101 hours, 36 minutes, when the LM was behind the moon on its 13th orbit, the LM descent engine fired for 30 seconds to provide retrograde thrust and commence descent orbit insertion, changing to an orbit of 9 by 67 miles, on a trajectory that was virtually identical to that flown by Apollo 10. At 102 hours, 33 minutes, after Columbia and Eagle had reappeared from behind the moon and when the LM was about 300 miles uprange, powered descent initiation was performed with the descent engine firing for 756.3 seconds. After eight minutes, the LM was at “high gate” about 26,000 feet above the surface and about five miles from the landing site.The descent engine continued to provide braking thrust until about 102 hours, 45 minutes into the mission. Partially piloted manually by Armstrong, the Eagle landed in the Sea of Tranquility in Site 2 at 0 degrees, 41 minutes, 15 seconds north latitude and 23 degrees, 26 minutes east longitude. This was about four miles downrange from the predicted touchdown point and occurred almost one-and-a-half minutes earlier than scheduled. It included a powered descent that ran a mere nominal 40 seconds longer than preflight planning due to translation maneuvers to avoid a crater during the final phase of landing.


    Attached to the descent stage was a commemorative plaque signed by President Richard M. Nixon and the three astronauts.The flight plan called for the first EVA to begin after a four-hour rest period, but it was advanced to begin as soon as possible. Nonetheless, it was almost four hours later that Armstrong emerged from the Eagle and deployed the TV camera for the transmission of the event to Earth.


    At about 109 hours, 42 minutes after launch, Armstrong stepped onto the moon. About 20 minutes later, Aldrin followed him. The camera was then positioned on a tripod about 30 feet from the LM. Half an hour later, President Nixon spoke by telephone link with the astronauts.Commemorative medallions bearing the names of the three Apollo 1 astronauts who lost their lives in a launch pad fire, and two cosmonauts who also died in accidents, were left on the moon’s surface. A one-and-a-half inch silicon disk, containing micro miniaturized goodwill messages from 73 countries, and the names of congressional and NASA leaders, also stayed behind. During the EVA, in which they both ranged up to 300 feet from the Eagle, Aldrin deployed the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package, or EASEP, experiments, and Armstrong and Aldrin gathered and verbally reported on the lunar surface samples. After Aldrin had spent one hour, 33 minutes on the surface, he re-entered the LM, followed 41 minutes later by Armstrong. The entire EVA phase lasted more than two-and-a-half hours, ending at 111 hours, 39 minutes into the mission.Armstrong and Aldrin spent 21 hours, 36 minutes on the moon’s surface.


    After a rest period that included seven hours of sleep, the ascent stage engine fired at 124 hours, 22 minutes. It was shut down 435 seconds later when the Eagle reached an initial orbit of 11 by 55 miles above the moon, and when Columbia was on its 25th revolution. As the ascent stage reached apolune at 125 hours, 19 minutes, the reaction control system, or RCS, fired so as to nearly circularize the Eagle orbit at about 56 miles, some 13 miles below and slightly behind Columbia. Subsequent firings of the LM RCS changed the orbit to 57 by 72 miles. Docking with Columbia occurred on the CSM’s 27th revolution at 128 hours, three minutes into the mission. Armstrong and Aldrin returned to the CSM with Collins. Four hours later, the LM jettisoned and remained in lunar orbit.

    APOLLO 12


    Pad 39-A (6)  Saturn-V AS-507 ()  High Bay 3  MLP 2  Firing Room 2 

    Dates: November 14th -November 24th 1969

    Crew:            Charles Conrad Jr……..  Commander
                          Alan L. Bean……………..Lunar Module Pilot
                          Richard F. Gordon Jr..   Command Module Pilot

    Back up Crew

    • Dave Scott
    • Al Worden
    • James Irwin

    Flight Directors

  • Gerry Griffin… Gold team
  • Pete Frank…….Orange team
  • Cliff Charlesworth…Green team
  • Milton Windler..Maroon team
  • Mission Purpose: The primary mission objectives of the second crewed lunar landing included an extensive series of lunar exploration tasks by the lunar module, or LM, crew, as well as the deployment of the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package, or ALSEP, which was to be left on the moon’s surface to gather seismic, scientific and engineering data throughout a long period of time. Further objectives included a selenological inspection; surveys and samplings in landing areas; development of techniques for precision-landing capabilities; to evaluate the human capability to work in the lunar environment for a prolonged period of time;  the deployment and retrieval of other scientific experiments; and photography of candidate exploration sites for future missions.

    The astronauts also were to retrieve portions of the Surveyor III spacecraft, which had soft-landed on the moon on  April 20, 1967, this happened to be a short distance from the selected landing site of Apollo 12.The flight plan for Apollo 12 was similar to that of Apollo 11, except Apollo 12 was to fly a higher inclination to the lunar equator and leave the free-return trajectory after the second translunar midcourse correction. This first non-free return was designed to allow a daylight launch and a translunar injection above the Pacific Ocean.. Conrad opened Intrepid’s hatch at 115 hours, 10 minutes into the mission to begin the first lunar EVA for the Apollo 12 crew. Conrad spent three hours, 39 minutes outside Intrepid, and Bean logged two hours, 58 minutes on the lurain. Conrad collected lunar surface samples and deployed both the S-band communication antenna and the solar wind experiment. Bean meanwhile was assigned to mount the TV camera on a tripod. Unfirtunately it was inadvertently pointed into the sun and failed to operate function.Throughout this first EVA, Conrad and Bean also took photographs of the experiment equipment, the spacecraft, the lurain and of themselves. Before entering the Intrepid, Bean also took a 16-inch-deep core sample of the lunar surface and was followed back into the LM by Conrad. The first EVA ended at 119 hours, five minutes into the mission.

    The crew proceeded to eat recharge their backpacks, preparing for the second EVA the following day. They slept for only an estimated five hours.On Nov. 20th the crew began the second EVA. Conrad left the Intrepid some 131 hours, 28 minutes into the mission. The second EVA included the collecting  70 pounds of rock and dirt samples, the retrieval of 10 to 15 pounds of randomly selected selenological samples. The crew retrieved the TV camera and stored it in the LM for return to Earth. The most important part of this second EVA was a 5,200-foot traverse of the lurain, ranging up to 1,300 feet from Intrepid. Walking northwest to the site of the ALSEP deployment,. NASA reports that Conrad and Bean then turned south to perform a selenological rock survey. They walked around the rim of  Head Crater, walked further south past Bench Crater, west around Sharp Crater, and back east past Bench Crater again, south of Halo Crater. Their journey then took them northeast, entering a 650-foot-wide Surveyor Crater which is where they had to retrieve parts of Surveyor III, which was perched some 150 feet from the edge at the southern quadrant.During the exploration, the astronauts communicated with geologists in Houston, who provided advice about which samples to retrieve. Surveyor was extensively photographed before parts were retrieved.

    The 17-pound TV camera was severed from its mount so that extensive studies could be performed on Earth of its gears, motors, optics, metals and lubricants. This was to determine the long-term effects of exposure to the elements. Similarly, the Surveyor’s motorized scoop, and pieces of TV cable, aluminum tubing and glass were gathered. Scientists on Earth were particularly interested in the cable because biological organisms had been trapped within it, and they wanted to know if any had survived.They returned to the spacecraft at 134 hours, 49 minutes into the mission. Approximately six hours later on the same day, after a total of 31.6 hours on the moon, the LM ascent stage fired for about seven minutes, putting Intrepid into an initial orbit of 10 by 54 miles for rendezvous and docking with the Yankee Clipper and Richard Gordon. About three and a half hours later, the rendezvous and docking maneuvers were televised to Earth by Gordon. A heavy schedule of photographing future landing sites on the lunar surface occurred from the CSM. The crew then headed for home.

    APOLLO 13


    Pad 39-A (7)  Saturn-V AS-508 ()  High Bay 1  MLP 3  Firing Room 1

    Dates: April 11th- April 17th 1970

    Crew:            James A. Lovell Jr……..Commander
                          Fred W. Haise Jr………..Lunar Module Pilot
                          John L. Swigert Jr……..Command Module Pilot

    Back Up Crew

    • John Young
    • Jack Swigert
    • Charles Duke

    Flight Directors

  • Gene Kranyz…..White Team
  • Glyn Lunney…..Black Team
  • Milt Windle…….Maroon Team
  • Gerry Griffin….Gold Team
  • Mission Purpose:  This mission was almost as famous as Apollo11, famed for the most successful failure in as mission control safely brought their men back home after an explosion on board .Apollo 13 was supposed to land in the Fra Mauro area. The Fra Mauro site was reassigned to Apollo 14 in event of this. Swigert had already been replaced by Mattingley who was thought to have the measles, and who was later assigned to Apollo 16 and Space shuttle missions.At 5 1/2 minutes after liftoff, John Swigert, Fred Haise and James Lovell felt a little vibration. Then the center engine of the S-II stage shut down two minutes early. This caused the remaining four engines to burn 34 seconds longer than planned, and the S-IVB third stage had to burn nine seconds longer to put Apollo 13 in orbit. Ground tests before the  launch revealed the possibility of a poorly insulated supercritical helium tank in the lunar module, , so the flight plan was modified to enter the LM three hours early in order to obtain an onboard readout of helium tank pressure. The No. 2 oxygen tank, serial number 10024X-TA0009, had been previously installed in the service module of Apollo 10, but was removed for modification and damaged in the process. Events lead to the tank being fixed, tested at the factory and installed in the Apollo 13 service module and tested again during the Countdown Demonstration Test at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center .

    The tanks normally are emptied to about half full. No. 1 behaved all right, but No. 2 dropped to only 92 percent of capacity. Gaseous oxygen at 80 pounds per square inch was applied through the vent line to expel the liquid oxygen, but to no avail. An interim discrepancy report was written, and on March 27, two weeks before launch, detanking operations resumed. No. 1 again emptied normally, but No. 2 did not. After a conference with contractor and NASA personnel, the test director decided to “boil off” the remaining oxygen in No. 2 by using the electrical heater within the tank. . Due to an oversight in replacing an underrated component during a design modification, this turned out to severely damage the internal heating elements of the tank.  On board Apollo 13 the TV broadcast showing how comfortably they lived and worked in weightlessness,

    Lovell commented, ”This is the crew of Apollo 13 wishing everybody there a nice evening, and we’re just about ready to close out our inspection of Aquarius and get back for a pleasant evening in Odyssey. Good night.” A good night never happened as nine minutes later, oxygen tank No. 2 blew up, causing the No. 1 tank to also fail. The command module’s normal supply of electricity, light and water was lost, and they were about 200,000 miles from Earth. At 9:08 p.m. April 13. Swigert saw a warning light that accompanied the bang and said the infamous, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” Next, the warning lights indicated the loss of two of three fuel cells, which were the spacecraft’s prime source of electricity. With warning lights blinking, one oxygen tank appeared to be completely empty and there were indications that the oxygen in the second tank was rapidly depleting.Thirteen minutes after the explosion, Lovell just happened to look out of the left-hand window and saw the final evidence pointing toward potential catastrophe.

    “We are venting something out into the… into space,” he reported to Houston. Capcom Jack Lousma replied, “Roger, we copy you venting.” Lovell said, “It’s a gas of some sort.” It was oxygen gas escaping at a high rate from the second, and last, oxygen tank. It is reported that the first thing the crew did, even before discovering the oxygen leak, was try to close the hatch between the CM and the LM. The pressure in the No. 1 oxygen tank continued to drift downward; passing 300 pounds per square inch, then headed toward 200 pounds per square inch. When the pressure reached 200 pounds per square inch, the crew and ground controllers knew they would lose all oxygen, which meant that the last fuel cell also would die.Ground controllers in Houston faced a formidable task.

    Completely new procedures had to be written and tested in the simulator before being passed up to the crew. The navigation problem had to be solved; essentially how, when and in what attitude to burn the LM descent engine to provide a quick return home. With only 15 minutes of power left in the CM, Lousma told the crew to make their way into the LM. Haise and Lovell quickly floated through the tunnel, leaving Swigert to perform the last chores in the command module. The first concern was to determine if there were enough consumables to get home. Power also was a major concern and  Ground controllers carefully worked out a procedure where the CM batteries were charged with LM power. All noncritical systems were turned off and energy consumption was reduced to 1/5, which resulted in having 20 percent of LM electrical power left when Aquarius was jettisoned. There was one electrical close call during the mission. One of the CM batteries vented with such force that it momentarily dropped off the line. Had the battery failed, there would have been insufficient power to return the ship to Earth.Water was the main consumable concern. It was estimated that the crew would run out of water about five hours before Earth re-entry, which was calculated at around 151 hours. However, data from Apollo 11, which had not sent its LM ascent stage crashing into the moon as in subsequent missions, showed that its mechanisms could survive seven or eight hours in space without water cooling. The crew conserved water. They cut down to six ounces each per day, 1/5 of normal intake, and used fruit juices; they ate hot dogs and other wet-pack foods when they ate at all. The crew became dehydrated throughout the flight and set a record that stood up throughout Apollo: Lovell lost 14 pounds and the crew lost a total of 31.5 pounds, nearly 50 percent more than any other crew. Those stringent measures resulted in the crew finishing with 28.2 pounds of water, about 9 percent of the total. One of the big questions was, “How to get back safely to Earth?”  They had to get back on a free-return course. The ground computed a 35-second burn and fired it five hours after the explosion.

    As they approached the moon, another burn was computed; this time a long five-minute burn to speed up the return home. It took place two hours after rounding the far side of the moon.The command module navigational platform alignment was transferred to the LM, but verifying alignment was difficult. Ordinarily the alignment procedure uses an onboard sextant device, called the Alignment Optical Telescope, or AOT, to find a suitable navigation star.

    Then with the help of an onboard computer, it verifies the guidance platform’s alignment. However, due to the explosion, a swarm of debris from the ruptured service module made it impossible to sight real stars. An alternate procedure was developed to use the sun as an alignment star. Lovell rotated the spacecraft to the attitude Houston had requested and when he looked through the AOT, the sun was just where it was expected. The alignment with the sun proved to be less than 1/2 a degree off. The ground and crew then knew they could do the five-minute P.C. + 2 burn with assurance, cutting the total time of their voyage to about 142 hours. At 73 hours, 46 minutes into the mission.Flight Director Gerald Griffin, a man not easily shaken, recalled: “Some years later I went back to the log and looked up that mission. My writing was almost illegible, I was so damned nervous. And I remember the exhilaration running through me: My God, that’s the last hurdle — if we can do that, I know we can make it. It was funny because only the people involved knew how important it was to have that platform properly aligned.” Yet Griffin barely mentioned the alignment in his change-of-shift briefing — “That check turned out real well” is all he said an hour after his penmanship failed him.The trip was marked by discomfort beyond the lack of food and water. Sleep was almost impossible because of the cold. When the electrical systems were turned off, the spacecraft lost an important source of heat. The temperature dropped to 38 degrees Fahrenheit and condensation formed on all the walls.The most remarkable achievement of mission control was quickly developing procedures for powering up the CM after its long, cold sleep.

    Flight controllers wrote the documents for this innovation in three days, instead of the usual three months. The command module was cold and clammy at the start of power-up.

    The walls, ceiling, floor, wire harnesses and panels were all covered with droplets of water. It was suspected conditions were the same behind the panels. The chances of short circuits caused apprehension, but thanks to the safeguards built into the command module after the disastrous Apollo 1 fire in January 1967, no arcing took place. Lovell recalled the descent to Earth, “The droplets furnished one sensation as we decelerated in the atmosphere: it rained inside the CM.”Four hours before landing, the crew shed the service module; mission control had insisted on retaining it until then because everyone feared what the cold of space might do to the un-sheltered CM heat shield. Photos of the service module showed one whole panel missing and wreckage hanging out, it was a mess as it drifted away. Three hours later, the crew left the lunar module Aquarius and then splashed down gently in the Pacific Ocean near Samoa. (Main Data Source /Nasa website)

    APOLLO 14


    Pad 39-A (8)  Saturn-V AS-509 High Bay 3  MLP 2  Firing Room 2 

    Dates: January 31st- February 9th 1971

    Crew:      Alan B. Shepard Jr. ……..Commander 
                    Edgar D. Mitchell …………Lunar Module Pilot
                    Stuart A. Roosa ……………Command Module Pilot

    Back Up Crew

    • Eugene Cernan
    • Joe Engle
    • Ron Evans

    Flight Directors

    • Pete Frank…..Orange team
    • Glyn Lunney..Black Team
    • Milton Windler…Maroon Team
    • Gerry Griffin….Gold Team

    Mission Purpose: The crews mission was to explore the  Fra Mauro region centered around deployment of the Apollo Lunar Surface Scientific Experiments Package, or ALSEP; lunar field geology investigations. There was to be a collection of surface material samples for return to Earth; deployment of other scientific instruments not part of ALSEP; orbital science involving high-resolution photography of candidate future landing sites.Other projects were the  photography of deep-space phenomena, such as zodiacal light and gegenschein; communications tests using S-band and VHF signals to determine reflective properties of the lunar surface, engineering and operational evaluation of hardware and techniques; tests to determine variations in S-band signals; and photography of surface details from 60 nautical miles in altitude. After a communications systems delay about one hour later than scheduled  Commander Alan Shepard set foot on the lunar surface at 114 hours, 31 minutes GET.

    The first of the two EVA periods included ALSEP deployment and lasted four hours, 49 minutes. The second EVA on Feb. 6 began  4:15 a.m. EST. During this EVA, Shepard and Edgar Mitchell moved more than half a mile from their LM and conducted selenological investigations, collecting samples and attempting to reach the rim of Cone crater, approximately 300 feet above the landing site. NASA personnel monitoring the EVA estimate that the two astronauts were within 50 to 75 meters of the crater rim when they were advised by mission control to collect samples at that spot and begin their traverse back to the LM. Shepard set a new distance-traveled record on the lunar surface of approximately 9,000 feet. The astronauts collected 94 pounds of rocks and soil for return to Earth. with these sample earmarked to go to 187 scientific teams in the United States, as well as 14 other countries for study and analysis.
    Orbital science activities were also conducted by Stuart Roosa during the lunar surface activities period.

    APOLLO 15


     Pad 39 (9)  Saturn-V AS-510 ()  High Bay 3  MLP 3  Firing Room 1 

    Dates: July 26th-August 7th 1971

    Crew:          David R. Scott……….Commander
                        James B. Irwin………Lunar Module Pilot
                        Alfred M. Worden…..Command Module Pilot

    Back Up Crew

    • Richard Gordon
    • Vance Brand
    • Harrison Schmitt

    Flight Directors

  • Gerry Griffin…..Gold team
  • Milton Windler..Maroon team
  • Glynn Lunnet….Black team
  • Gene Krantz……White team
  • Mission Purpose: Apollo 15 was the first of the Apollo “J” missions capable of a longer stay time on the moon and greater surface mobility.  Four primary objectives in the general categories of lunar surface science, lunar orbital science and engineering-operational. Crew objectives were to explore the Hadley-Apennine region, set up and activate lunar surface scientific experiments, make engineering evaluations of new Apollo equipment, and conduct lunar orbital experiments and photographic tasks.This Exploration saw the addition of the Lunar Roving Vehicle, or LRV. Setup of the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package, or ALSEP, was the third in a trio of operating ALSEPs (on Apollos 12, 14 and 15). The orbital science experiments conducted were an array of instruments and cameras in the scientific instrument module, or SIM, bay. Engineering and operational objectives included evaluation of modifications to the lunar module, or LM, made for carrying a heavier payload and for a lunar stay time of almost three days.

    There were changes to the Apollo spacesuit and to the portable life support system, , and evaluation and performance of the Lunar Roving Vehicle and the other new J-mission equipment that went with it — lunar communications relay unit, or LCRU, and the ground-controlled television assembly, or GCTA.Another major mission objective involved the launching of a Particles and Fields, or P&F, subsatellite into lunar orbit by the command and service module, or CSM, shortly before beginning the return-to-Earth portion of the mission. The subsatellite was designed to investigate the moon’s mass and gravitational variations, particle composition of space near the moon and the interaction of the moon’s magnetic field with that of Earth. David Scott and James Irwin flew their LM to a perfect landing at 6:16 p.m. EDT July 30, at Hadley Rille about 1,500 feet north and east of the targeted landing point near a crater named Salyut. Landing approach over the Apennine Range — one of the highest on the moon — was at an angle of 26 degrees, the steepest approach yet used in Apollo missions.During the three periods of extravehicular activity, or EVA, on July 31, and Aug. 1 and 2, Scott and Irwin completed a record 18 hours, 37 minutes of exploration, traveled 17.5 miles in the first car that humans have ever driven on the moon. They collected more than 170 pounds of lunar samples, set up the ALSEP array, obtained a core sample from about 10 feet beneath the lunar surface, and provided extensive oral descriptions and photographic documentation of geologic features in the vicinity of the landing site during the three days (66 hours, 55 minutes) on the lunar surface.On Aug. 2, LM Falcon blasted off and for the first time, the lunar liftoff was seen on Earth via the LRV television camera. The two spacecraft docked as Endeavor began its 50th lunar orbit. Alfred Worden became the first human to carry out a deep space EVA. He exited the CM, climbed toward the rear of the SM and retrieved film cassettes from the SIM bay cameras and returned to the CM.

    The walk was completed in 18 minutes (one hour had been scheduled in the flight plan).Apollo 15 set several new records for crewed spaceflight these included: heaviest payload in a lunar orbit of approximately 107,000 pounds, maximum radial distance traveled on the lunar surface away from the spacecraft of about 17.5 miles (previous high was 2.1 miles on Apollo 14),most lunar surface EVAs (three) and longest total of duration for lunar surface EVAs (18 hours, 37 minutes — almost the total time spent in lunar orbit by Apollo 8),longest time in lunar orbit (about 145 hours; only two hours less than the entire Apollo 8 mission),longest crewed lunar mission (295 hours), longest Apollo mission (295 hours — previous high was 244 hours, 36 minutes on Apollo 12), the first satellite placed in lunar orbit by a crewed spacecraft,  first deep space and operational EVA.

    APOLLO 16  


     Pad 39-A (10)  Saturn-V AS-511 ()  High Bay 3  MLP 3  Firing Room 1 

    Dates :April 16th-April 27th 1972

    Crew:      John W. Young ……………Commander 
                    Charles M. Duke Jr………Lunar Module Pilot
                   Thomas K. Mattingly II… .Command Module Pilot

    Back Up Crew

    • Fred Haise
    • Stuart Roosa
    • Edgar Mitchell

    Flight Directors: Gene Krantz

    Mission Purpose: There were three primary objectives were: to inspect, survey, and sample materials and surface features at a selected landing site in the Descartes region; to emplace and activate surface experiments; and lastly to conduct in-flight experiments and photographic tasks from lunar orbit. Additional objectives included performance of experiments requiring zero gravity and engineering evaluation of spacecraft and equipment. Apollo 16 blasted  off at 12:54 p.m. EST April 16, 1972, from Launch Complex 39 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. There were initially two significant command and service module problems – one en route to the moon and one in lunar orbit – contributed to a delay in landing and a subsequent early termination of the mission by one day.

    The Lunar module carrying John Young and Charles Duke touched down at Descartes about 276 meters northwest of planned point  about 9:24 p.m. EST April 20, about five hours, 43 minutes late. During 71 hours, two minutes surface stay, astronauts explored region on three EVAs totaling 20 hours, 14 minutes. The first EVA included the tried and tested Lunar Roving Vehicle setup and ALSEP deployment. Heat flow experiment was lost when Young tripped on electronics cable, breaking it. The Rover traverse took astronauts out west to Flag Crater where they collected samples and photographed the area. Return drive was south of outbound track to Spook Crater where Young and Duke took their first measurement with the lunar portable magnetometer, they proceeded to gather samples, and took both panoramic and 500 mm telephotography. Just before returning to the lunar module, they deployed the solar wind composition experiment at the ALSEP site. EVA duration was about seven hours, 11 minutes with 2.5 miles driven in the rover.Their second EVA began with drive south to Stone Mountain, where surface and core samples were collected at two stations in the area of Cinco Craters, along with a trench sample, penetrometer measurements and photography. Journeying  west, then north with stops at five additional stations for similar work. Crew returned to lunar module and ended second EVA after seven hours, 23 minutes and 6.9 miles on the rover.

    Real-time flight planners deleted four stops from the third and final EVA because of time constraint in meeting ascent schedule. Young and Duke drove north to North Ray Crater where “House Rock,” inside the crater rim, was sampled. Returning south, the crew stopped at “Shadow Rock” for additional sampling, photography and LPM measurement. Final stop near the LM added samples and core tubes to the collection. Last LPM readings were taken at the rover parking site along with final rock samples. Further procedures were completed ending with the Rover covering a  distance of 7.1 miles. When you equate this to the position of the Lunar module and unknown terrain this was quite a distance and I guess would have taken much confidence with bravado. Something we could easily take for granted on safe old Earth.Lets not forget Thomas Mattingly orbiting the moon with cameras and SIM bay instruments operating during the surface stay of Young and Duke. The third man was always placed in literally the loneliest region one could reach. His calm and collective was vital to getting the whole crew back home safely. Lunar liftoff came on time at 8:26 p.m. EST April 23, in view of the rover television camera. After normal rendezvous and docking, and transfer of crew samples and equipment, the lunar module was jettisoned. Total mission time was 265 hours, 51 minutes, five seconds and during that time Young and Duke collected 209 pounds of samples and drove the rover 16.6 miles. 



     Pad 39 (11)  Saturn-V AS-512 ()  High Bay 3  MLP 3  Firing Room 1 

     Dates: December 7th-December 19th 1972

    Crew:                  Eugene A. Cernan ………..Commander
                               Harrison H. Schmitt ……….Lunar Module Pilot
                               Ronald E. Evans …………..Command Module Pilot

    Back Up Crew

    • John Young
    • Stuart Roosa
    • Charles Duke

    Flight Directors : Eugene Krantz

    Mission Purpose: This was to be the last flight to the lunaR surface, and NASA describe the mission as follows:The lunar landing site was the Taurus-Littrow highlands and valley area. This site was picked for Apollo 17 as a location where rocks both older and younger than those previously returned from other Apollo missions, as well as from Luna 16 and 20 missions, might be found. The mission was the final in a series of three J-type missions planned for the Apollo Program. These J-type missions can be distinguished from previous G- and H-series missions by extended hardware capability, larger scientific payload capacity and by the use of the battery-powered Lunar Roving Vehicle, or LRV. Scientific objectives of the Apollo 17 mission included, geological surveying and sampling of materials and surface features in a preselected area of the Taurus-Littrow region; deploying and activating surface experiments; and conducting in-flight experiments and photographic tasks during lunar orbit and transearth coast. These objectives included deployed experiments, such as the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package, or ALSEP, with a heat flow experiment; lunar seismic profiling, or LSP; lunar surface gravimeter, or LSG; lunar atmospheric composition experiment, or LACE; and lunar ejecta and meteorites, or LEAM.

    The mission also included lunar sampling and lunar orbital experiments. Biomedical experiments included the Biostack II experiment and the BIOCORE experiment. At 9:15:29 a.m. GMT Dec. 7, 1972, the command and service module, or CSM, was separated from the S-IVB. Approximately 15 min later, the CSM docked with the lunar module, or LM. After CSM/LM extraction from the S-IVB, the S-IVB was targeted for lunar impact, which occurred Dec. 10, at 8:32:43 p.m. The impact location was approximately 84 nautical miles northwest of the planned target point and the event was recorded by the passive seismic experiments deployed on the Apollos 12, 14, 15 and 16 missions.Only one of the four planned midcourse corrections was required during translunar coast. A midcourse correction made at 5:03 p.m. Dec. 8, was a 1.6 second service propulsion system burn resulting in a 10>:5 feet/second velocity change. Lunar orbit insertion was accomplished at 7:47:23 p.m. Dec. 10, placing the spacecraft into a lunar orbit of 170 by 52.6 nautical miles.

    Approximately four hours, 20 minutes later, the orbit was reduced to 59 by 15 nautical miles. The spacecraft remained in this low orbit for more than 18 hours, during which time the CSM/LM undocking and separation were performed. The CSM circularization maneuver was performed at 6:50:29 p.m. Dec. 11, which placed the CSM into an orbit of 70.3 by 54.3 nautical miles. At 2:35 p.m. Dec. 11, the commander and lunar module pilot entered the LM to prepare for descent to the lunar surface. At 6:55:42 p.m. Dec. 11, the LM was placed into an orbit with a perilune altitude of 6.2 nautical miles. Approximately 47 minutes later, the powered descent to the lunar surface began. Landing occurred at 7:54:57 p.m. Dec. 11, at lunar latitude 20 degrees, 10 minutes north, and longitude 30 degrees 46 minutes east. Apollo 17 was the last lunar landing mission.

    Three extravehicular activities, or EVAs, lasted a total of 22 hours, four minutes on the lunar surface. EVA No. 1 began at 11:54:49 p.m. Dec. 11, with Eugene Cernan egressing at 12:01 a.m. Dec. 12. The first EVA was seven hours, 12 minutes long and was completed at 7:06:42 a.m. Dec. 12. The second EVA began at 11:28:06 p.m. Dec. 12, and lasted seven hours, 37 minutes, ending at at 7:05:02 a.m. Dec. 13. The final EVA began at 10:25:48 p.m. Dec. 13, and ended at 5:40:56 a.m. Dec. 14.The LM ascent stage lifted off the moon at 10:54:37 p.m. Dec. 14. After a vernier adjustment maneuver, the ascent stage was inserted into a 48.5 by 9.4 nautical mile orbit. The LM terminal phase initiation burn was made at 11:48:58 p.m. Dec. 14. This 3.2 second maneuver raised the ascent stage orbit to 64.7 by 48.5 nautical miles. The CSM and LM docked at 1:10:15 a.m. The LM ascent stage was jettisoned at 4:51:31 a.m. Dec. 15. Deorbit firing of the ascent stage was initiated at 6:31:14 a.m. Dec. 15, and lunar impact occurred 19 minutes, seven seconds later approximately 0.7 nautical miles from the planned target at latitude 19 degrees, 56 minutes north, and longitude 30 degrees, 32 minutes east. The ascent stage impact was recorded by the four Apollo 17 geophones, and by each ALSEP at Apollos 12, 14, 15 and 16 landing sites.Ronald Evans performed a transearth EVA at 8:27:40 p.m. Dec. 17, that lasted one hour, six minutes, during which time the Command Module Pilot Stuart A. Roosa retrieved the lunar sounder film, as well as the panoramic and mapping camera film cassettes.

    Apollo 17 hosted the first scientist-astronaut to land on moon: Harrison Schmitt. The sixth automated research station was set up. The lunar rover vehicle traversed a total of 30.5 kilometers. Lunar surface-stay time was 75 hours, and lunar orbit time 17 hours. Astronauts gathered 110.4 kilograms, or 243 pounds, of material. (Source.NASA website)

    Ground Crew Men of Substance.

     Eugene Krantz Werner Von BraunDeke Slayton

    With every Goal, and very mission there has to be key people who make it happen. This section is a tribute to the many hundreds of people who , saw, believed, desihned, built and oversaw the development of the Lunar Mission. Without these people there would be no eternal lunar footprints left on the Lunar surface by the Apollo twelve Astronaut Moonwakers. It is fact that these men and women entralled and motivated a Nations to believe in Space exploration.  Though there be many more I could write about I have selected just a few to give you a flavour of this unique part of NASA’s Moon program.

    Eugene Krantz 

    Eugene Krantz is a very well known Mission Controller particularly made famous through the film documentary Apollo 13 as its Flight Director.Krantz after completing  research tests at Holloman as an employee for the airline McDonnell-Douglas joined the NASA Space Task and woked on an assignment headed by  by flight director Christopher Kraft, as a Mission control procedures officer for the unmanned MR 1 test . He gained much experience as when he was put in charge of integrating Mercury Control with the Launch Control Team at ,which was based at Cape Canaveral Florida.He had to write up the “Go/NoGo” procedures which were used to  allow missions to continue as planned or aborted . He continued in this role for all unmanned and manned Mercury flights, which saw development of  MR 3 andMA 6 flights, these were the ground breaking missions which put the first Americans into space and orbit respectively.With success with these projects he was promoted to Assistant Flight Director to Flight Director Kraft for the MA 7 flight of which saw Scott Carpenter (Aurora 7) in October, 1962. He persued these mission with two  further Mercury flights and the first three Gemini flights, so by this time he was possibly the most experienced and confident back up office staff with NASA.. The later  Gemini flights saw him promoted to the Flight Director level and served his first shift, the so-called “operations shift,” for the Gemini 4 mission in 1965,  overseraring the first U.S EVA and four-day flight. After Gemini, he served as a Flight Director on  what was known as odd-numbered Apollo missions, including Apollos 7 and 9.His crowning moment I guess was the Flight Director for the first Moon landing of Apollo 11,controlling the actual moment when the Lunar Module Eagle landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969. Much loved by his staff, and extremely well respected World-Wide for his confidence, controlled nerves of steel which Atronauts relied on, saw him give a long and varied career with NASA. He and of course the  team of the Apollo 13 mission received the Presedential Medal of Freedom  for their heroic roles.Krantz worked as Flight Director up to Apollo 17 the last Lunar landing, the end of the Apollo missions, and subsequently was promoted to Deputy Director of NASA Mission Operations in 1974, and finally becoming Director in 1983. He retired from NASA in 1994 after many successful  Shuttle  flights in 1993. His interests include weiting , and he wrote a well kknown book Failure Is Not An Option, which was adapted for TV in 2004. it is not to surprising that aviation remains his passion , and he continues to fly an aerobatic aircraft. Perhaps we should think of hime as the shadow footprint on the Moon, the faithful voice of inspriration for every Astronaut he worked with. 

    Verner Von Braun:

    Von Braun was probably the most influential and most brilliant rocket scientist America has ever worked with. After a career working on early rocketry in wartime Germany he was controversially  approved to work in the USA. He worked on the Hermes project which refurbed, assembled and launched some V2 rockets that had come from Germany, studying the use of rockets for military use. 1950 to 1956 saw von Braun  in charge of the Army’s rocket development team at the well known Redstone base. As director of the Development Operations Division of the Army Ballistic Missile von Braun leading his team developed Jupiter C modified which  launched the West’s first satellite Explorer 1 in 1958. This event was very significant as it was the birthing of America’s space program. There were years of frustration as the Soviet Union went successfully forward with the legendary Sputnik Satellite program


    However in 1950 there was a newspaper headline stating the following Dr. von Braun Says Rocket Flights Possible to Moon”) , and in 1952, von Braun first published his concept of a manned space station in a magazine called Colliers weekly. With that and other articles he was subtedly paving the conception of space travel in the public arena. Some of his early ideas would actually come into play , particularly with the Space Station concept. Not content with Lunar travel he was already working out travel to Mars, as he had already written a Sci Fi novel on human space travel to mars set in 1980. A very active mind even saw him working in Disney films as a techinical adviser in their space films. With the cold war going on Von Braun was already working out space missile projects even then , what we would call the 1980’s and 90’s Star military projects. America was reaching the end of the 1950’s and the space race was hotting up, Von Braun was transferred to NASA .His condition was only if the work on the famous rocket would go ahead. Thank goodness he  made that plea, had he not, we may well have lost the space race to the Lunar landing to the Russians. Von Braun became director of  Saturn project which was initially to carry payloads into and beyond Earths orbit.From these early days, the Apollo program was birthed, and he saw the reality of men walking on the surface of the Moon. Saturn took Apollo 7 -17 into space, and deposited 12 men on the Moon and brought them back safely. Von Braun still wished to see Mars conquered, but it was not now to be his remit, retireing from NASA IN 1972, and died in 1977 after leaving his own unique footprint on the surface of the Moon.

    Deke Slayton: When I think of Slaytons role in space exploration I would think of the word determination. He was an Astronaut, and Astronauts friend. His career began when he joined the Air Force in 1943 becoming a B-25 Pilot serving with 56 combat missions. He later served as an instructer which would serve him well in years to come with his leadership skills.Amongst jobs he was a technical inspector and fighter pilot, later joining the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California. He was a test pilot there from January 1956 until April 1959 and participated in the testing of fighter aircraft built for the United States Air Force and some foreign countries. His NASA experience saw him named as one of the original infamous mercury Astronauts in 1959. Very unfortunately for him after being selected to pilot Atlas 7 mission a heart condition forced him to forgoe hhis flying career with NASA.

    Highly respected it was a natural choice for Deke Slayton to became Coordinator of Astronaut Activities in September 1962 and was responsible for the operation of the astronaut office. In November 1963, he resigned his commission as an Air Force Major to assume the role of Director of Flight Crew Operations. Slayton had large responsibilities for directing the activities of the astronaut office, the aircraft operations office, the flight crew integration division, the crew training and simulation division, and the crew procedures division. The good news was that Slayton was restored to full flight status and certified eligible for manned space flights in March 1972. A well deserved choice for we see that his first space flight as Apollo docking module pilot of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) mission, July 15-24, 1975—a joint space flight culminating in the first historical meeting in space between American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts.


    1975 -1977, Slayton served as Manager for Approach and Landing Test Project.  This meant that he directed the Space Shuttle approach and landing test project through a series of critical orbiter flight tests that allowed in-flight test and checkout of flight controls and orbiter subsystems . An extremely critical series of tests for a project that is still going strong until and wil remain so until its scheduled retirement at end of 2010. He retired in 1982, and went to work in the commercial world, sadly dying in 1993.


    Posted on March 21st, 2008. 13 Comments »